NAIROBI, April 24 (Reuters) – Kenyan police have recovered 58 bodies from mass graves in the Shakahola forest in eastern Kenya, thought to be followers of a Christian cult who believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves, the country’s police chief said on Monday.
The death toll, which has been rising steadily over the past two days as exhumations have been carried out, could rise further as the Kenyan Red Cross has said 112 people have been reported missing to a tracing desk it operates.
The cult was called the Good News International Church and its leader, Paul Mackenzie, was arrested following a tip-off that suggested the existence of shallow graves containing the bodies of at least 31 of his followers.
Earlier this month, police rescued 15 members of the group — worshippers at the Good News International Church — who they said had been told to starve themselves to death. Four of them died before they reached hospital, police said.
The leader of the church, Paul Mackenzie, was arrested following a tip-off that suggested the existence of shallow graves belonging to at least 31 of Mackenzie’s followers.
Local media, citing police sources, reported that Mackenzie has refused to eat or drink while in police custody.
Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said the entire 800 acre forest had been sealed off and declared a scene of crime.
“This horrendous blight on our conscience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward,” he said.