The mystery of 'miracle babies'
By Caroline Mallan
A UK court has ordered evangelical preacher Gilbert Deya back to Kenya to face five counts of child stealing.
The self-proclaimed bishop of a congregation with 36,000 UK members claimed he could give infertile couples 'miracle babies'
The children's true parentage remains unknown.
It is also unclear how Mr Deya and his wife convinced churchgoers that they were pregnant when they were not and how they believed that they had given birth in backstreet Kenyan clinics.
Kenyan police say Gilbert Deya Ministries is an international child trafficking ring.
A British family court judge agreed, saying infertile couples and congregation members were "deceived" by Mr Deya and that he was motivated by "the most base of human avarices: financial greed".
Mr Deya regards the children as miracles given to him by God for his followers.
"The 'miracle babies' which are happening now in our ministry is beyond a human imagination but it's not something that I can say - I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by human beings," he told BBC Radio 4's Face the Facts programme in 2004.
“ Please send your donation and expect your miracle ”
Gilbert Deya Ministries 2004 advert
He denies all charges and plans to appeal against extradition, saying he is the victim of a Kenyan political vendetta.
Kenya sought Mr Deya's return in 2005 after his wife, Mary Deya, and two other women were arrested in Nairobi on child stealing charges.
That followed a raid on the Deya home when 10 children were taken into care.
Mr Deya told British police he was the children's natural father and his 57-year-old wife was their mother - DNA tests proved negative and forged birth certificates were found in his home.
The three women were found guilty and Mr Deya's wife has been sentenced to two years in prison - she is appealing against this.
British and Kenyan officials say vulnerable church members were convinced that Mr Deya had the power of prayer to make them pregnant although they showed no outward signs.
They say he used trickery to convince women they had delivered babies.
A former stonemason who moved to London from Kenya in the mid-90s, Mr Deya developed 14 churches in Britain along with African and Asian branches.
His blend of charismatic, performance-style preaching and promises of miracle cures proved enticing and raised large sums of money.
A ministeries advertisement said: "God has blessed us with miracle babies that the world has never seen anything like before. Your donation is very useful to your miracle.
"Please send your donation and expect your miracle. Ten pounds, a hundred pounds, a thousand pounds - make cheques payable to Gilbert Deya Ministry".
Desperate women, some past the menopause and others who were infertile, were convinced that being prayed for by Mr Deya and travelling to Kenya would result in a child.
Once there, they were convinced by Mrs Deya and others that they were in labour and taken to illegal clinics where they underwent what they believed to be childbirth.
In a related case heard in a London family court, a baby was removed from a couple who belonged to Deya Ministries after their local GP alerted authorities when the woman tried to register him. The woman had not been pregnant and returned from a brief stay in Kenya with the child.
“ Some believe in the power of witchcraft and those who are Christian believe in the power of God ”
Millie Odhiambo-Mabona, The Cradle children's charity
Mr Justice Ryder granted custody of the child to Haringey Council and publicly rebuked the church's practices.
"The funds of his ministry have been generated at least in part by the tithes collected from a congregation that, on the facts I have found, have been deceived by the claims that have been made about Mr and Mrs E's miracle births," Mr Justice Ryder said, referring to the couple in that case.
Mr Deya's extradition hearing was told that the women who believed they had given birth had been assaulted in illegal clinics in Nairobi slums.
Kenyan police believe this explains unclear recollections about their 'birth' experience.
Millie Odhiambo-Mabona, executive director of The Cradle, a Kenyan children's rights charity, said no-one is sure where the 'miracle babies' came from.
None of the children taken from the Deya house have been identified.
She believes the women who became convinced they had given birth were simply devout, not wilfully naive.
"Some believe in the power of witchcraft and those who are Christian believe in the power of God," said Mrs Odhiambo-Mabona of the intense level of spirituality in some African countries, including Kenya and Nigeria.
"They believe Bishop Deya is a serious man of God so if he prays for them and then they have babies for them it is a religious reality."