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Bodies of two Shakahola 'poster boys' recovered

 Shakahola murder suspects arrive at Shanzu law court under tight security on June 2, 2023. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Bodies of the two boys who were starved to death in mid-March, exposing activities of the quasi-religious group linked to Pastor Paul Makenzi in Shakahola forest, were retrieved on Thursday.

Detectives involved in the rescue and recovery of the followers of Makenzi’s Good News International said they were exhumed and reburied in a secret location after the story broke.

The boys were the first to be reported dead inside the Shakahola forest in mid-March, leading to the arrest of Makenzi. However, he was subsequently released on an Sh10,000 bond by the Malindi court, pending further investigations.

On March 23, the police obtained a court order from Malindi to exhume the bodies of the two boys. Since then, over 250 bodies have been recovered from the dense vegetation of Shakahola, which is part of Chakama forest.

The police believe that the two boys died of starvation, as Makenzi allegedly instructed their parents to confine them in a room for fasting, supposedly to protect them from an “imminent painful death of children in the world.”

Makenzi, who is currently in police custody, has denied the allegations. Detectives have been struggling to explain why the bodies of the boys were not discovered during the rescue, recovery, and investigation operations that began in March.

According to the boys’ grandfather, Francis Wanje, the graves that were previously believed to contain their remains were found to be empty. He stated that the family suspected the bodies had been removed before the operation commenced.

Doomsday cult

“I believe they were dug up and buried elsewhere or discarded into Sabaki River after the police obtained court orders to retrieve them,” Wanje told The Standard two weeks ago.

Yesterday, homicide detectives and forensic experts who are investigating the Shakahola doomsday cult revealed that the boys were indeed exhumed and reburied by the cult members following Makenzi’s arrest. “The bodies were reburied in a single grave a few kilometers away from their previous burial site. Additionally, at the time of exhumation, the bodies had not decomposed,” stated an anonymous detective, as they are not authorized to speak to the press.

“The boys who passed away are my nephews. Their father used to be a General Service Unit (GSU) officer, but he resigned after joining the church,” Humphrey Ngonyo told the media in March.

In March, John Kemboi, the police chief of Malindi sub-County, mentioned that the children’s parents, Isaac Ngala and Emily Kaunga, were also suspects in the boys’ deaths. The police confirm that the parents are currently evading arrest.

A police source revealed that the detectives were able to locate the bodies after receiving assistance from Makenzi’s close associate, who is cooperating with the investigators. On Thursday, the detectives uncovered additional graves, bringing the total number of recent graves to 20.

And yesterday, 10 more bodies were exhumed from the farm, taking the death toll linked to the cult-like church to 274, according to Coast Regional Coordinator Rhoda Onyancha.

Five of the bodies were of teenagers found in one grave. She said 613 people have been reported missing.

Onyancha said 95 people have been rescued and 35 suspects were in police custody. “Some of the survivors have recovered and 19 have been reunited with their families,” said Onyacha, adding that exercise has been suspended for two weeks.

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