A controversial Kenyan-led church whose leader has been investigated over baby trafficking wants to set up a base in Leeds.
(GDM) in London, has applied for planning Gilbert Deya Ministriespermission to turn a former washing machine repair shop in Cross Green Lane, Cross Green, into a place of worship.
It is one of the UK’s fastest-growing evangelical churches and claims to have 34,000 members nationwide.
But the news has alarmed residents disturbed by reports that self-styled Archbishop Gilbert Deya and his British-born wife Mary Deya, 57, have been embroiled in a baby-trafficking probe in Kenya.
Last year, the Yorkshire Post reported that the 52-year-old Kenyan preacher and former security guard claimed to have helped infertile women conceive “miracle babies’’. Mrs Deya has been charged in a Kenyan court with stealing two babies from Pumwani Maternity Hospital and faces trial later this year.
The Charity Commission has frozen the bank accounts of Mr Deya’s ministry.
Pearl McArdle, a former member of East Park Community Association, who lives in the Cross Green area, was unhappy about the plan.
“I really feel that it would not be a good thing for our area at all,” she said. “If this church is involved in giving people false hope, that is the worst thing in the world. If you are absolutely desperate, it must be awful to be deceived in that way.’’
Leeds Lib Dem councillor Richard Brett (Burmantofts and Richmond Hill), said he had studied the application closely and listened carefully to residents’ views. But, while accepting the church was controversial, he warned the application would have to be considered solely on planning grounds.
Last year, Mr Deya was criticised by High Court judge Mr Justice Ryder, who was asked to determine a one-year-old boy’s future after hearing that DNA evidence meant the GDM couple claiming to be his parents could not possibly be so. He concluded the would-be mother had never been pregnant and had not given birth to any of the three children allegedly born to her.
He said she had been deceived into thinking that she had given birth and a “live child who had been born to another family was presented to her as her child”.
Chris Meregini, an administrator for GDM in London, was confident of obtaining planning permission for the church.
The Metropolitan Police said Mr Deya was arrested last year on suspicion of facilitating the illegal entry of a person into the UK. He was also questioned about alleged child trafficking in Kenya. Police added that he was no longer on police bail, but inquiries were ongoing.