Scottish Daily Mail


As preacher is found guilty of abuse, victim’s devastatin­g claim:

- By Victoria Allen and Rachel Watson

A FLAMBOYANT cult leader who sexually abused his followers was last night accused of driving one vulnerable worshipper to kill her own son. Zimbabwean Walter Masocha, 51, set up his own church in Stirling, appointing himself as ‘the prophet’ and assuming control over t housands of worshipper­s.

he faces jail after being convicted of sexually abusing two of his female followers.

But one of the victims, mother-of-four Jean Gasho, last night said she believes Masocha is also responsibl­e for the death of five-year-old Scott Chiriseri, who was stabbed and horrifical­ly mutilated by his mother Farai, who had believed she was on a ‘special mission from God’.

Miss Gasho revealed how Masocha accused the troubled mother of being possessed by the devil after she decided to leave his Agape For All Nations Ministries Internatio­nal church, and then deliberate­ly broke up her marriage to husband Tichakunda.

She said: ‘he said she had the devil inside her. he gave Tichakunda to another woman member.

‘Farai is left completely on her own, and watches another woman take over her husband. Farai is demonised by Walter Masocha and church members. She obviously gets

seriously depressed, there is no help out there for her.

‘Right now Agape are attacking Farai, calling her mad and an evil woman. But I don’t see her that way. I don’t condone what she did but I see her as a woman who has tragically lost her beloved son.

‘My opinion still stands today – was it not for Agape For All Nations Ministries Internatio­nal, I believe little Scott Chiriseri would still be here today.’

Yesterday, the preacher, a former university lecturer who convinced female worshipper­s his hugs were ‘anointed’, was found guilty by majority of sexual abuse.

His name will be added to the sex offenders’ register and he faces a potential prison sentence.

It is understood there are other victims who may now come forward following the guilty verdict.

During a dramatic six-day trial, the court heard how Masocha, a married father of two, used the threat of demonic possession to prey on a young girl i n his congregati­on.

His 15- year- old victim was molested in late 2013 in a games r oom at Masocha’s s evenbedroo­m home in Stirling.

She said: ‘He waved me over. He placed his hand round my lower back and moved his hand down until he got to my underwear, and he sort of pinged my underwear.

‘ He repeatedly pinged my underwear, ran his hand down my bottom and grabbed and pinched my bottom.’

The secondary school pupil, who is now 16 but cannot be named for legal reasons, questioned Masocha on why he had done it.

He claimed he had seen ‘demons and things that shouldn’t be there’ in her underwear and was clearing them away.

She said: ‘I just broke into tears because I thought I had been doing things wrong without realising. I felt like I had been bad.’

In another incident, when she was 13 or 14, the Stirlingsh­ire teenager said Masocha had been giving her advice about school, when he suddenly said, ‘You’ll always be mine’, and kissed her on the lips.

Taught that everything Masocha did was a blessing from God, she was happy but said she now feels disgusted.

Masocha started Agape in 2008 after receiving a ‘divine visitation’ and is said by former members to have seized control over their lives.

Masocha, who demanded congregati­on members pay 10 per cent of their earnings every month to his church, drove a Jaguar, owns three properties and lives in a three-storey mansion in Sauchiebur­n, Stirling.

The converted water tower was reportedly once on sale for £1million, although he bought it after it was repossesse­d for just under £380,000.

A f ormer treasurer of the church, who asked not to be named, said he made around £10,000 a month from congregati­on donations, despite his claims in court to earn between £30,000 and £40,000 a year.

Former church member Miss Gasho said devout followers were convinced even Masocha’s sweat was ‘ holy anointing oil’ and bought him up to £ 1,000 of groceries every month, while struggling to feed their own families.

The 32-year-old former deaconess, whose bravery in coming forward brought Masocha to justice, told Falkirk Sheriff Court he groped her after claiming he was praying for her to recover from a stomach complaint.

The court heard on one occasion in 2012 he hugged her ‘very intimately’, caressing her back and kissing her around her neck.

Miss Gasho, who was married, said: ‘I felt confused, I felt violated. He was saying, “receive my love”. At one point I felt his manhood against me.’

On another occasion, she went to his office in Melville Terrace, Stirling, with a stomach complaint. She said: ‘He said he was going to pray it away. He touched my tummy, then his hand went down my body, onto my private parts.’

Sobbing, she said: ‘It was like he was feeling me. I was so shocked.

‘At that time I saw him as somebody who could never do any wrong because that was what he used to teach us.’

The trained mental health nurse was told she was possessed while at the church and subjected to a violent eight-hour exorcism.

After fleeing the church and her marriage, she described Agape as a ‘cult’ and has written a blog, called ‘He was my “daddy”’ about the abuse she suffered at Masocha’s hands.

Last night, she wrote on a social media website: ‘I am a winner! A fighter! My God is a God of justice!’

A jury of seven men and seven women took less than 30 minutes to find Masocha guilty by a majority of sexually assaulting Miss Gasho and sexually touching the girl aged 15.

Masocha, wearing a handmade suit with velvet collar, stood blank-faced as the verdict was announced and refused to comment after the trial.

His wife Judith, who is known as the ‘prophetess’ within the church, appeared to dab her f ace with a tissue.

Sheriff Kenneth McGowan will sentence the cult leader on May 19, following an assessment of the risk he poses to other women and girls.

He was cleared of two further charges. However, it is understood more women have made accusation­s.

Muzvare Betty Makoni, a Zimbabwean women’s activist involved in the case, said: ‘This is the tip of the iceberg. There are many more women abused by this man who I know won’t come out, out of shame and embarrassm­ent.

‘But stories coming out in the community show that a lot of women may have fallen victim and there must be a way to help them come forward.’

Earlier this month, Farai Chiriseri, 32, was acquitted and sent to a medium- security psychiatri­c unit, the Orchard Clinic in Edinburgh, for treatment after the Crown accepted a special defence that she was unable to ‘appreciate the nature and wrongfulne­ss’ of her son’s death.

A consultant psychiatri­st, Dr John Crichton, told the court she suffered from ‘schizophre­niform psychotic illness’, consisting of delusions and hallucinat­ions, and her conversati­ons were of ‘ abnormal religious content’.

He said she needed supervisio­n for the ‘foreseeabl­e future’. TO his devoted flock he was more than a mere bringer of the message of God. Walter Masocha was practicall­y a deity himself.

When he walked to his pulpit, he trod over a carpet of his worshipper­s’ jackets. When he delivered his sermon, a team of moppers attended to the sweat on his brow.

And when the sermon was over, the soiled handkerchi­efs became prized souvenirs at the Agape For All Nations Church. Congregant­s believed t hey were imbued with holy anointed oil. The conclusion of a court case in Falkirk casts a very different light on 51-year-old Masocha, the Zimbabwe-born preacher who liked to be called Daddy. This was no prophet; he was a confidence trickster using his so- called holy status to exploit impression­able church members for his own sexual gratificat­ion and financial profit.

Most of those who have left the church now realise they had bought into a religious cult – one with little apparent purpose but to serve the depraved ends of its leader. Those who are still part of it, sadly, may remain in denial for much longer.

But a Mail investigat­ion has found Masocha’s malignant influence on his church members in Central Scotland extended much further than the two sexual offences a jury found him guilty of committing yesterday.

Most disturbing­ly, he is said to have played a key part in the circumstan­ces leading to the horrific death of five-year- old Scott Chiriseri last year.

Scott was stabbed to death and then horribly mutilated by his mother Farai, 32, at their home in Alva, Clackmanna­nshire, in December. She believed she was on a ‘special mission from God’.

She was charged with murder but later acquitted after a judge accepted she was suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing.

Yesterday, one of Masocha’s victims, Jean Gasho, claimed the little boy’s mother had been ‘demonised’ by Masocha for leaving his church.

Miss Gasho also said the mother was left without a husband after Masocha paired the boy’s father, Tichakunda, off with another woman church member.

Match-making among his flock, former members claim, was one of Masocha’s favourite pastimes. It ensured members remained in the church and that families grew up under his leadership.

The 32-year-old former deaconess, who was sexually assaulted by the cult leader, said: ‘Everyone who left the church was said by him [Masocha] to be mentally unstable, a witch, possessed. ‘She [Mrs Chiriseri] left the church and, as with many couples where only one person went to the church, he would say to her husband you need to cut this person off.

‘He said she had the devil inside her. He gave Tichakunda to another woman member. We knew they were together, every-

‘I felt confused. I felt violated’ ‘She had the devil inside her’

one in the church, and they used to drive to the church together.’

The Chiriseris, originally from Zimbabwe, are understood to have been introduced to Agape by Tichakunda’s brother. Former members said the couple had been happily married, but Agape drove a wedge between them.

Former church member Miss Gasho said: ‘Farai is left completely on her own, and watches another woman … take over her husband. Farai is demonised by Walter Masocha and Agape church members. She obviously gets severely depressed. There is no help for her out there.

‘Right now Agape are attacking Farai, calling her mad and an evil woman. But I don’t see her that way. I don’t condone what she did but I see her as a woman who has tragically lost her beloved son.’

She added: ‘My opinion still stands today – was it not for Agape For All Nations Ministries Internatio­nal I believe little Scott Chiriseri would still be here today.’

It was almost a decade ago, while living in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingsh­ire, that Masocha became known as an eccentric religious leader.

He was lecturing in accountanc­y at Stirling University by day and, i n the evenings, preaching to members of a sect called Forward in Faith. At the time, neighbours viewed him more as an irritant than a sinister presence.

Former neighbour Bill Mills, who tried to have an Asbo served on Masocha, said: ‘I am just a layman but I am sure I saw an exorcism. I came out of my house one day and found a man lying on my lawn.

‘There were four or five others standing round him and they seemed to be chanting. I asked them what they were doing and they just said, “Oh, he does this all the time”.

‘I said, “Well, you can’t do it on my lawn”.’

Masocha claimed the incident happened when a vi si t or became unwell and fell into the next door garden.

By 2008, t he preacher’s involvemen­t with that organi- sation had reached an abrupt end. It was during prayer, he said, that a new way forward revealed itself. He saw rainbows and heard a voice telling him to start Agape church in Stirling.

It is unclear whether the financial arrangemen­ts for the new outfit also came to him in prayer but they certainly served his expensive tastes admirably.

His and his wife Judith’s incomes would come from tithi ng, with members paying 10 per cent of their salaries to the church. The greater the membership, the greater the income.

Over the past seven years, the church, which owns no buildings of its own and is registered as a charity, has enlisted more than 2,000 members across the UK, US, Canada and Africa. That would go some way, perhaps, to explaining the sevenbedro­om mansion near Stirling where Masocha and his wife, known as the Prophetess, now live – and the fleet of flash cars in the drive.

Former members say they had to foot the bill when their leader flew to assemblies around the world, staying in f i ve- star accommodat­ion. Similarly, when the ‘Prophet’ was called upon to marry members of his flock, a tailor-made suit was purchased for him to wear and his hotel bill was paid. If there was any flying involved, first class tickets were required.

To those outside the cult, it is not hard to see Masocha’s behaviour as that of a cynical, manipulati­ve and greedy man. To those inside, it seemed he could do no wrong.

Congregati­on members who went t o Masocha’s house instinctiv­ely waited on him like servants or did his housework.

In church, meanwhile, women and children threw themselves on the floor – so great was the power of God they perceived in him.

They did not perceive that the man they deified was a despot – and an evil one at that. Nor did they see that Masocha had come to view his flock as personal property with whom he could do as he pleased.

Additional reporting by Rachel Watson.

 ??  ?? Shamed preacher: Masocha faces a jail sentence Confidence tricks: Walter Masocha exploited his status
Shamed preacher: Masocha faces a jail sentence Confidence tricks: Walter Masocha exploited his status
 ??  ?? Undeserved devotion: Masocha, who liked to be called Daddy, was worshipped by a worldwide flock, including many in Africa
Undeserved devotion: Masocha, who liked to be called Daddy, was worshipped by a worldwide flock, including many in Africa
 ??  ?? Abuse: Masocha and Jean Gasho, who quit
Abuse: Masocha and Jean Gasho, who quit
 ??  ?? Killed: Tragic Scott Chiriseri
Killed: Tragic Scott Chiriseri
 ??  ?? Father: Tichakunda Chiriseri
Father: Tichakunda Chiriseri

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