A reporter at a regional daily carried out an undercover investigation which exposed a church claiming to cure cancer with a mixture of blackcurrant squash and olive oil.
Richard Wheatstone, from the Manchester Evening News, went undercover at the Victorious Pentecostal Assembly in Gorton after reading claims on the church’s website about curing cancer, HIV and diabetes.
He posed as someone who had an uncle with cancer and within 15 minutes of entering the church, was offered the “miracle cure”.
A church leader who identified himself as “Pastor Mbenga” offered to sell Richard a one litre bottle of blackcurrant squash and a 500ml bottle of olive oil for £14 – despite them costing less than £6 in supermarkets.
Richard was told that if his terminally-ill family member drank a mixture of the squash and the olive oil once a day after it was blessed by a pastor, the cancer would be cured.
He has now written about his investigation, saying he was shocked by how quickly he was offered the cure after entering the church.
Said Richard: “The mark-up of more than 200 per cent on these products – which could end up costing several hundreds of pounds over a period of just a few months – in the middle of one of Manchester’s most deprived communities, felt questionable at best.
“I respect that people are free to pursue their own beliefs but felt that in a vulnerable position I was offered the guarantee of a miracle cure in a bid to get me into the church.
“Encouraging people to part with their cash promising a quick fix for a savage illness seems wrong, irrespective of belief. There are laws against it for a reason – to protect people when they feel at their most vulnerable.”
Since Richard’s investigation, the church has been slammed by cancer organisations for exploiting vulnerable people.
The church, on Hyde Road, opened last year and is the first northern base of the VPA, which has three other churches in Hackney, Luton and Barking.
The organisation has previously been fined by Ofcom for making similar claims on its television channel Believe TV.
Any advertisement, including verbal claims, promoting products as treatments or cures for cancer is illegal under the Cancer Act 1939.
When confronted by the newspaper outside the church, Pastor Mbenga defended the practice but said he was not aware the church was breaking the law.