The last time Elizabeth Njenga saw her daughter, the baby was only a few hours old.
She watched the tiny figure rock gently to sleep in the Kenyan hospital’s recovery room and decided to name her Salome.
But a few minutes after Salome fell asleep, a nurse told Mrs Njenga that she was going to be transferred to the main ward.
“I asked, ‘What about the baby? Can you give the child to me?’ ” said Mrs Njenga, who had given birth by caesarean section. “The nurse told me, ‘No, you are in pain, you must sleep, forget about the child until you have recovered’.”
Mrs Njenga, 22, caught a fleeting glimpse of her baby sleeping peacefully as she was taken away. Salome disappeared and her fate is now at the centre of what Kenyan police believe is a child trafficking racket stretching from Britain to Africa.
Gilbert Deya, a London-based evangelist, has been charged with involvement in the abduction of Mrs Njenga’s child from Pumwani maternity hospital, Nairobi, on Feb 5.
Kenya has applied for the extradition of the preacher, who styles himself an archbishop and operates across Britain from the headquarters of his Gilbert Deya Ministries in Deptford, south London.
Mr Deya, 52, once a security guard in Kenya, claims that his prayers can cause infertile women to deliver “miracle babies”. The claims have helped him expand his following and bring in revenue. He denies the charges and says Kenya’s government is waging a vendetta against him.
Last month, police raided Mr Deya’s spacious home in the Mountain View area of Nairobi and took nine children into protective custody, including a six-month-old girl who they suspect is Mrs Njenga’s daughter.
They arrested Mr Deya’s British wife, Mary, and charged her with involvement in abducting the baby. Two other British women of Kenyan descent, Miriam Nyeko and Rose Kiserem, were also charged and released on bail last week.
The Deyas claimed that all the children were theirs. But DNA tests on Mrs Deya showed that six of the children, including the girl suspected of being Salome, were unrelated to her. The verdict on two was inconclusive. One boy was shown to be her son.
Mrs Njenga has taken DNA tests to prove her parentage of the baby girl found in the Deyas’ home. Although police have not released the results, their decision to charge the Deyas with abducting Salome indicates that they are convinced that Mrs Njenga is her mother.
Twenty-four couples have also alleged that their babies were abducted from Pumwani hospital and police have arrested four of its staff.
Mrs Njenga recalled that, the day after she was moved to the main ward, a nurse presented her with a form and told her to sign it because her baby was dead.
Mrs Njenga, whose two previous children died in infancy, said: “After what had happened before, the pain was much worse,”
As she broke down in tears, the nurse ordered her not to tell anyone of her baby’s alleged death.
Another 11 children taken into protective custody were found at the Nairobi home of Michael and Eddah Odera, a Kenyan couple. They claim all were “miracle babies” conceived after blessings from Mary Deya.
Mr Deya has called down curses on anyone trying to claim the children he insists are his own. In a statement, he said: “The Lord will blow their heads off and scatter their bodies in the streets.”