Shakahola cult: State seeks to detain Mackenzie, 29 others for 180 more days

PAul Mackenzie

Pastor Paul Mackenzie and his alleged 29 associates at the Shanzu Law Courts during the mention of the case in this file photo. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit I Nation Media Group

Suspected Kilifi cult leader Paul Mackenzie and his 29 alleged associates are likely to remain in custody until February next year, after the State made a fresh plea to detain them for a further six months.

They appeared before Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda on Monday expecting to be charged, but that did not happen.

The State instead filed another application seeking to detain them for a further 180 days.

This comes as it emerges that the scientific process of identification of the 429 bodies exhumed from Shakahola Forest is likely to take at least additional six months (180 days) to complete.

It has been argued that extraction of DNA material from bones may take from two to 14 days per sample depending on the state of decomposition.

The State says that such evidence is necessary to identify victims and deceased persons to help in charging the suspects, case presentation and the delivery of justice.

The application for further detention could however not be heard as the suspects’ advocate Wycliffe Makasembo said he was ill and needed time to recover.

In the application, the State said the prosecution has since reviewed the updated police files and further detention is necessary and justifiable.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Jami Yamina said in a document presented before the court that out of the 429 bodies so far exhumed, 360 are severely decomposed.

The State has argued that for the 360 bodies, the DNA material from body tissue has been degraded and may not generate DNA profiles, thereby necessitating the extraction of DNA material from the cells in the skeleton and bones of the corpses.

"This process is delicate, costly, laborious, time-consuming and is estimated to take at least an additional six months and counting. There are many emerging variables that the State could not possibly dictate or control over as investigation moves from the known to the unknown, thereby demanding more time for a successful investigation," said the State in the document.

According to documents filed by Investigating Officer Raphael Wanjohi, the investigation and evidence gathered so far disclose reasonable grounds for the police to believe that there are many extended families that may have lost relatives in Shakahola, who may either not be aware that their families have actually perished.

For the past 47 days, Mr Wanjohi said that efforts to record the statements of 15 of the respondents yielded no results as they declined, while the remaining 15 recorded cautionary statements that failed to provide any credible accounts for their family background.

It has also emerged that a good number of the families of the suspects in Mackenzie's group and in the survivors (66), upon being contacted, have expressed surprise by the information that their relatives are suspected to be adherents of the Good News International Church and are presently before court in the Shakahola investigation.

"It is apparent, based on the information the police are gathering, that the adherents allegedly misled their kin back home that they were relocating to other parts of the country, perhaps resulting in fewer reference samples from biological relatives," Mr Wanjohi said.

In some cases, the investigators have found that an entire nuclear family has been wiped out and is believed to be among those dead and exhumed.

Their extended families had no clue about their linkage to Shakahola.

"The impact of the unawareness of the status of these wiped-out families by their extended families is that not all reference samples from biological relatives necessary for DNA victim identification have been secured and taken to the Government Chemist," said the officer.

The State has also argued that victim identification is critical to making a decision to charge due to the varying causes of death of the victims.

The latest data indicates that 214 died from starvation, 39 from asphyxia, 14 from head injury, while 115 remain unascertained, and others from other causes.

The case will be mentioned on October 12.