'Miracle baby' actually was victim of child traffickers, British judge rules

Friday, November 12th 2004, 11:17 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ An infertile Nigerian couple who believed a self-styled preacher's claim that their child was miraculously conceived were really the victim of greedy international child traffickers, a British judge ruled Friday.

Relying on DNA evidence, Judge Ernest Ryder said the couple who claimed to be parents of the 1-year-old boy were victims of ``a cruel deception to further the financial ends of those involved.''

Ryder said he found that Gilbert Deya, a London-based Kenyan preacher who claims to have helped infertile women conceive ``miracle babies'' by praying for them, was a ``self-serving and superficial'' witness.

The judge said the baby's supposed mother, identified only as Mrs. E, ``was deceived into thinking that she had given birth. She was seriously assaulted and a live child who had been born to another family was presented to her as her child.''

Ryder ruled that the baby, identified only as C, was not the child of Mr. and Mrs. E, who live in Britain, and ordered ``an urgent investigation'' to find his real parents.

Ryder acknowledged that the couple were ``good and loving carers of the child,'' but said ``if C's future care is founded upon a lie, he will likely suffer profound harm.''

The judge dismissed Deya's claims that C and several other children were born through divine intervention, saying, ``Mr. Deya is economical with the truth.''

Mingling with dozens of supporters outside the courtroom, Deya accused Ryder of religious discrimination. He said Kenyan authorities are persecuting him because of his ties to the country's former ruler, Daniel arap Moi.

``This is not my own doing. It is God's doing,'' Deya said. ``As they are judging us, more miracles are happening.''

Mrs. E believed 22 ``miracle'' babies had been born to Deya's followers, and she believes she is pregnant again, Ryder said.

Kenyan officials in early September said they were investigating Nairobi's Pumwani Maternity Hospital following allegations some parents were told their newborns had died, but the babies were stolen. Many couples who say their infants disappeared from the hospital have sought to claim the 20 children found with the suspects.

Deya, the prime suspect in the case, denies the allegations and is fighting extradition to Kenya. His wife has pleaded innocent to charges of stealing two infants. Four other people face similar charges.

Nairobi police spokesman Jaspher Ombati has said the preacher blessed infertile or post-menopausal women and sent them to Kenya, purportedly to give birth. The women claimed to have delivered babies in as little as two months and then applied to British authorities to take them back to London, he said.

Concerns were raised in England after British media reported that babies were being ``born'' to British women after they had visited backstreet clinics in slums in Nairobi. British authorities took C into care after tests showed his DNA did not match that of his supposed parents.

Unable to conceive, Mr. and Mrs. E had sought help from Gilbert Deya Ministries, ``an eclectic mix of traditional African custom and charismatic Christian belief,'' Ryder said.

Mrs. E soon reported symptoms of pregnancy, although tests at London clinics proved negative. Mrs. E. testified that she then traveled to Kenya, where she gave birth to C and two other children at clinics in Nairobi between September 2003 and June 2004.

Ryder said Mrs. E described receiving injections for presumed labor pains from people she believed to be doctors, who examined her.

He said she did not see the moment of childbirth, but ``in each case the child was held up for her to see, was wrapped up, and then removed.''

Although Deya did not ask Mr. and Mrs. E for money, the judge said the ``miracle births'' were a key to Deya's fund-raising through his congregation.

Gilbert Deya Ministries calls itself an international religious ministry that began in Kenya. It operates churches in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Nottingham and says it has 34,000 followers in Britain.

In September the Charities Commission, Britain's charity watchdog, froze the bank accounts of Gilbert Deya Ministries while it investigates the group's use of funds, its fund-raising and its publicity.