Shakahola cult: Court allows State to hold Mackenzie for 47 more days

Pastor Paul Mackenzie

Pastor Paul Mackenzie addressing journalists at the Shanzu Law Court on Thursday.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Suspected Kilifi cult leader Paul Mackenzie and his followers will remain in custody for another 47 days.

Shanzu Court Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda ruled that he was satisfied that it was not appropriate to grant the suspects bail at this stage due to the nature and complexity of the ongoing investigations into the Shakahola mass deaths, which now stand at 427.

"I am satisfied that the continued detention of the suspects is justified. Given the nature and circumstances of this case, I agree with the State that detention is the least restrictive measure that can be taken against the suspects," the magistrate said.

Mr Shikanda further noted that justice for the suspects, the victims and their families requires that a thorough investigation be carried out to unravel the tragedy and what happened in Shakahola Forest.

The court also noted that due to the seriousness of the matter under investigation, it was not safe for the court to release the suspects without a proper background check, as the materials available indicated that most of the suspects went to the forest with their families who are still missing.

"There is a need for a social investigation to be conducted before the suspects are released back into society. It is important for the state to determine whether it is safe for the suspects to remain in the community," the magistrate said.

Had been completed

The court also noted that the State could not bring criminal charges against the suspects until the DNA analysis of the deceased, the suspects and their families had been completed.

"I agree that for proper charges to be laid against the accused, the exhumed bodies must be identified because, in the absence of the identities of the deceased, the State cannot lay charges against the accused," added Mr Shikanda.

The court agreed with the State that it will only be able to establish whether the missing family members of the suspects were among the more than 400 bodies exhumed from Shakahola Forest after the DNA analysis is completed.

"The police have indicated that they have yet to complete the identification process. If the suspects are released before this exercise is completed, there is a likelihood that they will not turn up. I agree with the State that the suspects may escape if they are released before the investigation is completed. I am satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances in this case," the magistrate added.

There must be an assurance

The court also noted that before the suspects could be considered fit to be released on bail, there must be an assurance that they will be available for trial.

Mr Shikanda also clarified that at this stage, the State was not required to prove charges against the accused for them to be denied bail, but only to show compelling reasons.

The magistrate concluded that the State had provided compelling reasons to justify the continued detention of Mackenzie and his supporters.