Police seek to detain suspected cult members after two children die in mysterious circumstances

Members of the Kanisa la Mungu, Neno la Kweli Religious Sect before Kilifi Senior Principal Magistrate Justus Kituku on September 19, 2023.

Photo credit: Maureen Ongala | Nation Media Group

Police in Kilifi have gone to court to detain members of an alleged religious sect pending investigations after two minors died after their parents refused to take them to hospital for medication because of their faith.

Ten suspected members of the Kanisa la Mungu, Neno la Kweli church were brought before Kilifi Chief Magistrate Justus Kituku on Tuesday morning.

The ten are Thuo Kimutu Kumbura, Wanjeru Babu, Simon Njue Babu, Francis Kimani Buuru, Karimi Njiru, Patrick Nyaga Njuki, Muthoni Njue, Regina Ndung'u, Wangari Muthoni and Kaari Mwaniki.

Mr Joseph Mwatsuma, a driver who allegedly used his car to transport the body of one of the minors from her home to the mortuary, was arrested and the vehicle impounded.

The deceased, Wachira Thuo, 13, and his sister Wambui Thuo, 11, are children of the first and second suspects, Mr Thuo Kimutu Kimbura and Mrs Wanjeru Babu, of Kibaoni Estate in Kilifi Township.

The late Wachira was a candidate while Wambui was in class 6 at Kilimo Primary School in Kilifi.

The Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Police Sergeant Daniel Mutisya asked the court for 14 days to remand the suspects at Kilifi Police Station.

Police expect to charge them with manslaughter contrary to section 204 read with section 205 of the Penal Code.

He said they were tipped off by members of the public about the unreported death of a minor at a house in Ukombozi in Kilifi town on 17 September at noon.

Sergeant Mutisya said police officers visited the scene and found that it belonged to Mr Simon Njue Babu, the church elder.

"The suspect's house serves as a place of worship and the church does not take its members to hospital when they fall sick," he told the court.

According to Mr Mutisya, on September 17, the late Wachira was taken to Mr Njue's house by his parents for prayers as he was sick but succumbed at about 8am that day.

"Upon interrogation, the parents revealed that another child of theirs, the late Wambui, died on September 16 at their home in Kibaoni Estate after falling ill on September 10, but he was rushed to hospital and the body is at Kilifi County Hospital mortuary," he added.

The bodies of the two minors are at Kilifi County Hospital Referral Mortuary.

The DCI said the suspects were arrested on September 17 and they needed more time to take statements from witnesses, conduct post-mortems and compile the case file for the Director of Public Prosecutions to review for advice and further interrogation.

"This is an investigation into the deaths of two children and as a government we value human life. We have information that there may be other sick children hidden somewhere," he said.

In addition, the suspects posed a high risk of absconding due to the lack of information on their backgrounds.

However, the suspects asked the Senior Principal Magistrate to allow them to bury the minors. The magistrate will rule on the matter on Thursday.