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Kenya: Organs missing from some victims of starvation cult

May 9, 2023

Kenyan investigators have started a new round of exhumations of victims of a doomsday cult, where they found evidence of organ harvesting.

Workers receive the exhumed bodies of followers of a cult named "Good News International Church", who believed they would go to heaven, if they starved themselves to death in Shakahola Kenya
A total of 112 people have so far been confirmed deadImage: Monicah Mwangi/REUTERS

Autopsies on several victims of the Good News International Church cult, whose members allegedly starved themselves to death in Kenya, were missing organs, investigators said.

Paul Mackenzie, leader of the Good News International Church, who was detained last month, is believed to have ordered his followers to starve their children and themselves to death.

He allegedly promised they would go to heaven before the world's end, which he predicted would happen on April 15.

"Post mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of victims who have been exhumed," chief inspector Martin Munene said in court documents seen Tuesday by the AFP news agency.

It is "believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players," he added.

The discovery of mass graves last month in the Shakahola forest near the coastal town of Malindi has shocked Kenyans.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said post-mortem examinations on 112 bodies that had been exhumed or recovered had ended.

He said investigators were resuming their search for other victims of the "highly organized crime" after it was suspended last week due to bad weather. 

"What we have here in Shakahola is one of the worst tragedies our country has ever known," Kindiki told reporters.

Court to rule on suspected cult leader's detention

Mackenzie has not yet entered a plea and his lawyer said he was cooperating with police.

While starvation appears to be the leading cause of death, some of the victims, including children, were strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.

The Magistrate Court in Shanzu was expected to rule on Wednesday whether police could hold Mackenzie for another 90 days while they continued their investigation.

Another man arrested in the same case was granted bail on Thursday.

Police say "huge cash transactions" thought to be linked to the sale of houses belonging to Mackenzie's followers were traced to Ezekiel Odero's, a high-profile televangelist, bank accounts.

A court ordered the authorities to freeze more than 20 bank accounts belonging to Odero for 30 days. 

lo/jcg (AFP, Reuters)