Search for Shakahola bodies set to resume

Homicide detectives collect bodies that were exhumed from the shallow graves within Shakahola forest. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Detectives and forensic experts investigating the Shakahola doomsday cult in Kilifi County will resume exhumation of bodies next week.

So far, 427 bodies have been recovered since the exercise started.

Embalming of the bodies exhumed in the first and fourth phases was completed yesterday, while that of those retrieved in the second and third phases is expected to be over by the end of this week.

Investigators are also piecing together evidence, including filling postmortem forms and sorting out bodies to be used as evidence in court.

Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) soldiers have been helping in searching for more graves ahead of the fifth phase of exhumation.

Earlier, a team was deployed to the Shakahola Forest to open up roads to facilitate the search and rescue mission.

The Red Cross Society has also donated a second mobile morgue, which Coast Region Manager, Hassan Musa, said can accommodate 100 bodies.

In April, the Society doted a 300-capacity mobile morgue to store the Shakahola bodies after mortuaries in Kilifi were overwhelmed.

In the most recent autopsies led by Chief Government Pathologist Johansein Oduor, two fetuses were discovered in two women who were pregnant when they died.

Coast Regional Coordinator Rhoda Onyancha said the number of those rescued  stands at 95 while 37 have been arrested.

“At least 613 people have been reported to be missing by their loved ones in relation to the Shakahola massacre,’’ she said.

Onyancha further said over 256 relatives of the cult victims have undergone DNA testing to help identify their loved ones.

Paul Makenzi of the Good News International Church, which is among the organisations deregistered last week, is alleged to have instructed his congregants to fast to death so that they could meet Jesus.

Makenzi and 28 of his followers are being held at the Shimo la Tewa Prison as detectives continue with investigations.

Pathologists have also established and recorded cases of strangulation. Survivors of the ordeal recounted how children were forced to fast and endure harsh physical punishment such as whipping of those who refused to fast.