Thirteen years ago, almost to the day, I was assigned by my then editor to write a story about a Kenyan cobbler turned televangelist who was suspected of conning childless couples in England by producing what he termed “miracle babies”.
The man, known as Pastor Gilbert Deya, or, as he preferred, Archbishop Deya, was suspected of buying or stealing newborns from desperate, poverty-stricken mothers in slums around Nairobi and elsewhere in Kenya, and then somehow convincing childless women they had been pregnant courtesy of the Holy Spirit and that God had chosen him to present them with a child.
One woman even claimed to have been pregnant for years, before the “Archbishop” helped her give birth to a child that was already a few months old. Quite bizarre, really, if you think about it, but desperate people will go to great lengths to deceive themselves. Also, when charlatans such as the self-declared Archbishop put their minds to it, they can weave a fantastic story to such people who are happy to believe even things that they would ordinarily know are impossible.
While Deya himself was in the UK, where he had set up an impressive mission and garnered a big, wealthy and somewhat influential following, his wife, Mary Deya, was still in Kenya and was thought to handle the sourcing of the so-called miracle babies.
While she was originally arrested in 2004 - shortly after the story broke - she managed to wriggle free of the system with the help of her lawyers, eventually being jailed in 2014 for the theft of one baby from Kenyatta National Hospital in 2005.
So when in the run-up to Kenya’s election day I read a story in the Star newspaper saying that the slippery Gilbert Deya, who had for years fought extradition for his crimes against Kenyan children and their parents, had finally failed in his bid for freedom and was back in Kenya to be tried, I couldn’t help but celebrate.
The fact the story managed to briefly stem the tide of election stories, coming as it did just days before this week’s poll, at a time when it seemed rare for non-political stories to make the news, showed just how important this case still is. So while the wheels of justice do turn slowly, it is reassuring to see that they do turn.
That said, I cannot help but think of the children whose lives were changed and possibly forever by the evil miracle babies scam. Many of the stolen children would be young teenagers now.
The question now is, can they all be traced? Also, would it be possible if not to reunite them with their birth families then at least let them know their stories? Painful as such an exercise would certainly be for all involved, especially if they are now in loving families, it would be important for the sake of justice.
One can only hope that finally, justice will be served and the truth will come out about Deya and others of his ilk, whom I refer to as miracle merchants.