Alleged Doomsday Cult Leader Behind 440 Deaths Goes On Trial

Paul Mackenzie and 94 alleged accomplices are accused in the case
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2024 12:30 AM CDT
Alleged Doomsday Cult Leader, 94 Others Go on Trial
FILE - Pastor Paul Mackenzie, who was arrested on suspicion of telling his followers to fast to death in order to meet Jesus, accompanied by some of his followers, appears at a court in Malindi, Kenya on Monday, April 17, 2023.   (AP Photo, File)

The trial of alleged doomsday cult leader Paul Mackenzie started Monday in Kenya. Mackenzie is accused of masterminding the Shakahola forest massacre, one of the worst recent tragedies related to a cult, with more than 440 followers dead (nearly 200 of them children) after being told to starve themselves so they could meet Jesus Christ before the end of the world. Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed pastor, appeared in a Mombasa courtroom alongside 94 co-defendants, facing terrorism charges, CBS News reports. They also face murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and child torture and cruelty charges in separate cases, DW reports.

While most of the deaths were attributed mainly to starvation, some victims were strangled, beaten, or suffocated. Some bodies had their organs removed. Many were placed in mass graves, and remains have been unearthed from the Shakahola forest, a remote wilderness area. Police found the grisly site last year after a relative of one of the victims passed along a tip from a former member of Mackenzie's Good News International Church, which the former taxi driver founded in 2003. "The prosecution will present evidence to illustrate that the accused did not function merely as a fringe group, but rather as a well-organized criminal enterprise operating under the guise of a church under the leadership of (Mackenzie)," prosecutors say in a statement. (More Kenya stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.