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Children in Shakahola cult were strangled, Johansen Oduor says


Chief Government Pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor speaks to the press after conducting a repeat autopsy on the body of Jeff Mwathi who was exhumed on March 31, 2023, at Likia, Njoro. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

The post mortem done on the bodies exhumed from the Shakahola forest shows that most of the children were strangled to death.

The exercise which entered day two is being led by Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor and is taking place at the Malindi Sub County Hospital morgue.

The team examined 30 bodies on Tuesday, eight males and 22 females, of these, 15 are adults while nine are children. Today's autopsy raises the number to 40.

While addressing the press Oduor, said that most of the children victims have some features of strangulation and asphyxiation.

"Out of the autopsies done an 11 year old female kid was strangled to death -she had clear marks in the neck and her bones were broken," said Odour.

He also said one child had trauma to the head and three of them had asphyxiated- meaning that they had died for lack of oxygen probably due to suffocation.

Further, the Chief Pathologist said that two other kids had undergone smothering -this happens when someone blocks your nose and mouth so that you are unable to breathe and you die.

"From what we are hearing, there was some indication that they were being smothered, which can be one of the causes of asphyxiation. It was in two children," he said.

"There were six bodies which we were not able to ascertain the cause of death because of the level of decomposition," he added.

The pathologists took DNA from 27 people for purposes of identification, an exercise Oduor said may take months to be completed.

The exercise is expected to conclude on Thursday and the government will resume exhumation next week.

Oduor also says most of the bodies were badly decomposed hence posing it as a challenge, he, however, said all the organs were intact, amid rumours of organ trafficking.

According to Oduor, the decomposition has made it difficult for pathologists to estimate their time of death and had to result to using X-ray machines for age estimation

These findings now point to a possible murder of the victims of the cult like Church led by Pastor Paul Makenzi Nthenge.

Interior cabinet secretary Kithure Kindiki on Friday said that preliminary reports suggested "some of the victims may not have died of starvation. There were other methods used, including hurting them."

Meanwhile, people from across the country continue to hang around the area for any information about their loved ones suspected to have been a part of the deadly cult

The 50,000 acre Chakama Ranch where Shakahola Forest is located has since been cordoned off in the wake of the operation and a 30-day dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed. The government last week also barred the media from accessing the area.

In a case that erupted last month, horrifying a deeply religious nation, cult leader Makenzi is accused of urging followers to find God through starvation.

The provisional death toll stands at 110, which includes a small number of people who were found alive but died on their way to the hospital.

A former taxi driver, Nthenge created a Christian-based cult called the Good News International Church.

Detectives and pathologists are still combing through the Shakahola forest for more shallow graves and any of Nthenge's followers who might be hiding.

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