Death toll of doomsday cult surpasses 400 as bodies are exhumed

The death toll in connection with a doomsday cult in Kenya has surpassed 400, as authorities discovered 12 additional bodies believed to be followers of a pastor who ordered them to fast to death in order to meet Jesus. Pastor Paul Mackenzie, the leader of the cult based in a forested area in Malindi, is currently in police custody, along with 36 other suspects. Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha confirmed the rising death toll, with 403 fatalities and 95 people rescued. The investigation continues as detectives uncover more mass graves.

Last month, some suspects and rescued individuals initiated a hunger strike in prison and at the rescue center, prompting the prosecutor to bring them to court for attempting to take their own lives. While most agreed to resume eating, one suspect died while in custody. The Kenya Red Cross has received reports of 613 people missing in the Malindi area. Detectives are diligently working to locate and identify the victims, with 253 of the 403 bodies already undergoing DNA matching. Pathologists have noted that many of the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition.

Pastor Paul Mackenzie relocated to the forested area in 2019 after his church was shut down due to his controversial teachings, which included discouraging children from attending school. He had previously been arrested and released on bond in connection with the disappearance of children. President William Ruto established a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the events and determine liability, but the court halted the proceedings following a petition filed by opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The case underscores the need for swift and effective intervention by law enforcement agencies to prevent further harm. The closure of Pastor Mackenzie’s previous church and his subsequent relocation should have raised red flags, prompting authorities to closely monitor his activities.

As the investigation continues, it is crucial for the authorities to identify all those involved in the cult and hold them accountable for their actions. Efforts should also be made to provide support and counseling to the survivors and families affected by this tragedy.