Pathologists conduct 22 autopsies on Shakahola victims

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor. [File, Standard]

Investigators performed 22 autopsies on victims of the Shakahola massacre that occurred in Kilifi County with children dominating the list.

The pathologists said they had conducted autopsies of 14 children aged between 18 months and 10 years and seven adults.

The experts however said they could not ascertain the age or gender of one body because of its level of decomposition.

The postmortem exercise conducted at the Malindi Sub County hospital mortuary was led by Chief Government Pathologist Dr. Johansen Oduor assisted by detectives from the Homicide Unit of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and forensic experts and analysts from the government chemist.

Dr Oduor said many of the remains found show signs of extreme starvation, some were smothered and a few showed blunt force trauma.

“We have realized that most victims of the third phase of autopsies are children,” he observed.

He explained that the more the bodies stay, the more difficult it becomes in determining the cause of death.

"Other than the skeletal tissues that will take longer to deteriorate it will be difficult to determine the cause of death,’’ he said.

A total of 94 bodies were exhumed from shallow graves in the Shakahola forest in the third phase and experts started the postmortem on Wednesday this week.

Authorities say the dead were followers of the Good News International Church, led by pastor Paul Makenzi.

The pastor who is in custody reportedly instructed his followers to starve themselves to death before the end of the world.

Dr Oduor also says the process of collecting DNA samples was still ongoing.

On Tuesday this week, the team did scanning to ascertain the age of the victims before the commencement of the autopsies on Wednesday.

The death toll stands at 336.The deaths amount to one of the worst cult-related tragedies in recent history and the toll is expected to rise after 16 new graves were discovered at Shakahola.

Kenya Red Cross Society has reported that more than 613 people are missing.