Court orders Mackenzie, 30 others to undergo mental exam before murder trial

Pastor Paul Mackenzie in Court

Photo credit: Kevin Odit

High Court in Malindi has ordered that suspected cult leader Paul Mackenzie and his 30 co-accused be taken for mental assessment before taking plea in their murder charges.

Justice Mugure Thande issued the orders after the state asked for 14 days to present the suspects before a psychiatrist to determine their ability to plead to murder and terror charges.

"Given the number of suspects in this case, I find the 14 days reasonable.  The suspects are to be taken to a psychiatrist to certify their fitness to stand trial, before taking plea " the judge said.

Further, Justice Thande directed that issues of bond will be discussed after all the suspects have pleaded to the charges.

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Victor Mule said the suspects were only required to know why they were in court.

 "The suspects have been brought before the court to be informed of the reasons for their arraignment.  We ask the court to order mental easement be carried out on them before they are charged with the offence of murder," said the prosecutor. 

The suspects' lawyer Wyclif Makasembo had asked the court to only give the state seven days to carry out the mental assessment, lamenting that they have been in custody for so long.

"The suspects have been in prison for the last six months. They were ready to take plea, and be granted bond so that they could go to their families. They are tired. A maximum of seven days are enough," said the advocate.

He also suggested that a psychiatrist be taken to the prison where the suspects are remanded to speed up the process.

The advocate also lamented that long detention has negatively affected the health of his clients.

"Mr Evans Kolombe is paralysed due to the long incarceration. Some of the suspects have even died while in custody. Let them plead to the charges so that they can be granted bond," said the advocate.

The charge sheet filed before the High Court indicates that Mackenzie and his associates are accused of murdering 191 children.

The charge sheet reads that on diverse dates between January 2021 and September 2023, the suspects jointly murdered Nathan Mathu, Evabra Dito, Seth Ngala, Sifa Edison  and 187 others in the Shakahola area, Kilifi County.

Sources privy to the investigations and within the prosecution have revealed that more murder charges will be preferred against Mackenzie and his group once all the bodies being preserved at the Malindi morgue are identified through a scientific process that has been on course since the victims were exhumed from the forest.

So far, DNA analysis has revealed identifications of 191 children who perished in the deadly fast. The scientific process is expected to reveal the identities of adults who perished in the deadly fast.

Mackenzie 's wife Rhoda Mumbua Maweu who was also under investigations in relation to the Shakahola massacre has been dropped as a murder suspect.

She was not among the 31 people who were presented before the High Court over the Shakahola massacre on Wednesday. 

When Mackenzie appeared before the High Court, he told Justice Thande thtlat the prison authorities have been denying them food and water for the past three days.

"My clients have eaten anything for the past three days. We ask for an order that they be given food," said Makasembo.

Justice Thande directed the prison authorities to ensure the  Mackenzie and his associates are fed like any other person.

The case will be mentioned on February 6.