Relief for relatives as 100 bodies recovered in Shakahola identified

Officials from the Government Chemist said DNA sampling is still ongoing and relatives of the identified victims will be notified to collect the bodies next week.

Some 425 bodies are being preserved at the Malindi morgue.

About 266 relatives gave DNA samples to establish the identity of alleged members of a cult who starved themselves to death at Shakahola.

The relatives came from as far as Nigeria and Tanzania, and Kakamega, Makueni and Nairobi.

Stephen Mwiti who lost six children said this was a sigh of relief to him and his family as he had waited for months to have the bodies identified.

"Our community observes certain strict regulations until the last rites are performed. Until we find a body, we don't believe somebody is dead," he said.

Mr Mwiti said his wife Bahati Juan followed Makenzi to Shakahola together with their six children last year but she was rescued.

He, however, has never gone to see her.

"I was called by DCI officers from Malindi and told they had found my wife but I don't want to see her because she left my children to die inside the forest," he said, adding that the delay in DNA results had taken a toll on him.

Yesterday, the team of pathologists and detectives performed 24 autopsies in the fourth phase of the exercise.

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor said the team is, this week, expected to finish autopsies on 87 bodies exhumed in the fourth phase.

"Today, we did 24 autopsies and the main course of death was starvation. We are remaining with 24 bodies and we are expecting to complete the autopsy before the week comes to an end," said Oduor.

Detectives have exhumed 425 bodies but the figure was expected to rise as they plan more exhumations.

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

Pastor Paul Makenzi of Good News International Church is alleged to have instructed his congregants to fast to death so that they could meet Jesus.

Cases of strangulation ave also been recorded. 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.

Makenzi and his accomplices remain in police custody as detectives continue with investigations.