How Mackenzie aide-turned-state witness helped uncover secrets of Shakahola massacre

Shakahola cult

Locals from Shakahola Centre help dig up graves at Shakahola Forest part of the 800 acres linked with cult leader Paul Mackenzie of Good News International Church on June 6, 2023 during the third phase of the exhumation that was witnessed by Interior CS Kithure Kindiki.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi I Nation Media group

Efforts by detectives to piece together information on what exactly happened at Shakahola Forest in Kilifi County have begun to bear fruit after one of the people said to be an aide of Kilifi cult leader Paul Mackenzie was arrested and turned into a key state witness.

Documents filed by the prosecution in the ongoing Shakahola massacre investigation at the Shanzu magistrate's court have revealed how the arrest of EKK (the state witness) assisted detectives in laying a trap and arresting the suspects who were said to hold senior positions in the Good News International Church.

The suspects are said to have been assigned important positions in the crimes that led to the killings and illegal disposal of bodies at Shakahola.

The documents go on to say that the EKK cooperated with the investigation team and helped to "identify the grave sites where more bodies were buried, which led to the exhumation of more bodies ... further identified the meeting places of other perpetrators of the crime, which also led to further arrests”.

"The respondent was arrested on May 10 and booked at Malindi Airport Police Station, where the court granted five days’ custodial orders. Upon the expiration of the said period, an affidavit was filed, and the court granted an additional two days, which have since lapsed. Within the period granted by the court, the respondent participated in identification parades, which greatly assisted in identifying, tracing, and arresting other suspects before court," read the court document.

Among those arrested with the help of EKK were Joseph Buyuka (who died in what police believe was a hunger strike by Mackenzie's supporters), Julius Katana, Erick Omolo, Lucas Karisa and Evans Sirya.

Sirya, who was last seen in a critical condition when he appeared with two others in the Shanzu court, was not among the suspects who appeared in court on Wednesday.

He is believed to be recuperating at Malindi Sub-County Hospital on the orders of the court.

This is not the first time Mr Sirya's name has surfaced as a person of interest.

His name appeared on one of the burial permits dated January 28 and obtained by the Nation.

The burial permit, with serial number 1722406, was issued to Mr Sirya and also bears the signature of the then-Assistant Chief of Makongeni Sub Location, Mr Raymond Charo, who is now the chief of Chakama Location.

It appears that the burial permit was issued after a letter was submitted explaining why the permit was needed.

In this case, Mr Silas Omondi Otieno had written a letter requesting a burial permit for his wife, Zilpha Adoyo Mwande.

The letter dated January 28, 2022 reads, "Mimi Bw Silas Omondi Otieno nathibitisha kwamba Bi Zilpha Adoyo Mwande ni mke wangu na kwamba mnamo usiku wa leo saa saba usiku ameaga dunia katika kijiji cha Shakahola Makongeni Sub-location... Kwa hiari yangu nimeamua kumzika leo tarehe 28/1/2022 hapa nyumbani bila kuenda mortuary ndani ya masaa 24 hours ...wako mwaminifu Silas O.Otieno (I, Mr Silas Omondi Otieno, confirm that Ms Zilpha Adoyo Mwande is my wife, and that she died at 1 this morning at Shakahola village in Makongeni sub-location ... I have decided to bury her today January 28, 2022 here, at home, without going to the mortuary, within 24 hours. Yours sincerely, Silas O. Otieno."

Both Mr Otieno's and Mwande's national identity card numbers were listed in the letter and a copy of his ID card was attached.