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The high price of freeing Kilifi’s cult leader back in 2019 after he was linked to missing minors

A leader of Kilifi-based cult leader Paul Mackenzie was arrested by police officers in 2019 for brainwashing minors, Nairobi News can now reveal.

Details emerging after an investigation into Mr Mackenzie’s lifestyle now show that he brainwashed four children who fled their home in Mwitoti, Mumias East, Kakamega County and joined him in Kilifi.

To begin with, a cult leader can be defined as a highly charismatic leader who provides acceptance and security to his followers. This type of person needs to be dynamic, charismatic and persuasive because their aim is to brainwash their members and gain financial or power benefits.

Locals help homicide detectives carry bodies of three people exhumed from a shallow grave in Shakahola village in Kenya’s Kilifi County on April 21, 2023. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

Also read: Truth behind the Malindi cult-like church unveiled by ex-members

A police officer privy to the 2019 arrest told this reporter that Mr Mackenzie, who led the Good News International Church, was released in unclear circumstances.

“If he could have been detained by the police and an investigation into how he operated could have been launched, then perhaps the deaths of many people could have been prevented,” said the police source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The officer said that after his release, no one bothered to follow up and find out whether the allegations against the man were true or not.

Good News International Church Pastor Paul Mackenzie when addressing Nation.Africa in Kilifi County on March 24, 2023. A Malindi Court released the pastor on a Sh10, 000 bond after he was arrested over the controversial murder of 2 minors in Shakahola believed to have been starved and suffocated to death before being buried in shallow graves between March 16-17. PHOTO BY WACHIRA MWANGI

The police source, who has since been transferred and is now based in the city, went on to say that he was shocked to discover that it was the same sect leader who was now at the centre of investigations linked to the deaths of dozens of people.

Meanwhile, as the investigation into the murders continues, it has emerged that Mr Mackenzie has been on hunger strike in police cells.

Homicide detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) are investigating him after it emerged that he had persuaded his followers in the village of Shakahola to starve themselves to death.

Also read: KOT question authorities tole following Shakahola religious cult deaths

Police say Mackenzie refused even a glass of water, claiming he was fasting and praying.

On Friday, seven bodies, five children and two women, were exhumed from four of the 32 graves identified by police.

Mr Mackenzie surrendered to police and was charged last month after two children starved to death in their parents’ custody.

He was later released on police bail.

Police reported his arrest last Saturday after discovering the bodies of four followers, whom he had allegedly told to starve themselves to ‘meet Jesus’.

Eleven other followers of the church – the youngest just 17 – were taken to hospital, three of them in a critical condition, after being rescued a week ago when the first bodies were discovered in a forest.

Also read: Kill in the name of Vybez Kartel: Inside the cultic following among Eastland’s youth