Dozens of couples in Kenya received the news they were dreading yesterday as police released results of DNA tests which showed they were not the parents of 21 children recovered in what has become known as the “miracle babies” investigation.
The move came as Mary Juma Deya, wife of the evangelical preacher at the centre of the scandal, faced three more charges of stealing children.
At Nairobi criminal court, Mrs Deya pleaded not guilty to all four charges she faces.
Gilbert Deya, head of a 36,000-strong evangelical congregation in Britain, remains in Glasgow where he is preparing to fight extradition.
Detectives in Kenya suspect he is the head of a child smuggling ring, bringing women to Africa to collect babies which they later claim were the result of miraculous conception.
Mrs Deya was arrested in August after police raided her Nairobi home and recovered 10 young children. DNA tests revealed she was related to only one child. She claims the babies were the result of miracle births. A further 12 children were found at two other addresses.
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In all, 53 sets of parents came forward to say their own children had disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Among them is Grace Wanjiru, 36, who was told her baby son died soon after birth six years ago at Pumwani hospital.
However, she became convinced he was among children recovered from the home of Eddah Odera, another accused, after seeing a police photograph of a child bearing a strong family resemblance. She said it had been an agonising two-and-a-half-month wait for the results.
“I feel so disappointed because I waited so long and still no-one has had the decency to tell us officially,” she said.
The results reinforce fears that the children may have been sold by impoverished parents. The practice is known to occur in slum clinics in Nairobi, where mothers have been prosecuted for selling babies for less than ?20.
Mrs Deya was initially charged with stealing a baby from Pumwani hospital, the maternity unit at the centre of the miracle babies claim.
In the faded grandeur of Nairobi’s colonial courthouse yesterday, she held up her right hand defiantly and said: “It’s not true. They are my own children. A person cannot steal her own child.”
She remained in police custody last night after failing to raise bail.
Her denial sets the scene for an intriguing court case. Her legal team is preparing to argue that the children were conceived through prayer.
Cliff Ombata, her advocate, said: “We will argue that case in court.
“We are going to argue about many things. We will argue about Jesus: there was no DNA testing at that time and that was a miracle birth.
“And this one may be a miracle too.”
Mrs Deya appeared alongside Miriam Nyeko, a Briton, who also denies stealing children.
Earlier this week, Michael and Eddah Odera were charged with stealing 10 children found at their home during a police raid, in addition to a single previous charge.
Mrs Odera claims to have given birth to 13 children in five years after Mr Deya cast demons out of her body.
The cases came to light during an investigation in Britain.
Mr Deya, who uses the title of archbishop, remains holed up in Scotland after leaving his south London base.
He has retained the services of Aamer Anwar, a human rights solicitor, and Donald Findlay, QC, two of the country’s highest profile lawyers.