After controversial televangelist Paul Mackenzie secured his freedom on a police bond last month, a series of blunders by him and his aides led to the discovery of mass graves in Kenya’s Shakahola village. Mackenzie was linked to the murder of two children in the village, and court documents revealed that their parents had starved and suffocated them to death on advice from the televangelist.
Though the decision to arrest Mackenzie was mooted soon after, the lack of legal backing prevented the police from executing their plan. The suspect went into hiding and his collaborators ensured he remained incognito while his lawyer worked on a suit to prevent his rearrest.
Meanwhile, police continued with their investigations and monitored the cult leader and his associates’ movements. However, Mackenzie’s followers went undetected until more than 10 people in Shakahola and Msimba villages were seriously injured after being attacked by their neighbors for being cult members. The victims were shopping for food for Mackenzie and his associates when they were caught.
Upon questioning, some of the victims laid bare the secretive activities happening in the forest. On April 14, acting on intelligence, the police made a shocking discovery: four people died of suspected starvation during a prayer session, while ten others were rescued at night.
Based on this new evidence, the police arrested Mackenzie in Chakama in a hideout. Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki corroborated the Nation’s investigations into the cult, saying many deaths might have happened within one month.
The death toll rose further with the discovery of five bodies of children next to Mackenzie’s homestead and three others found in different parts of the compound. The government declared Shakahola village a disturbed area and an operation zone and imposed curfew orders within the said area between 6 pm and 6 am for 30 days.
The Kilifi County Government also received 200-capacity refrigerated containers from the Kenya Red Cross Society to preserve bodies from Shakahola, where dozens of followers of a cult fasted to death and were buried clandestinely.
The Director of Public Prosecutions obtained orders to search and seize Mackenzie’s properties, and Malindi Court Principal Magistrate Ivy Wasike ordered that the search be extended to his seven associates. The search is to be conducted by the DCI in Furunzi-Malindi and Shakahola to retrieve any document and item linked to the offenses of terrorism, radicalization, murder, or any other charges that will be preferred against the accused persons.