Evidence emerges at hearing of third accused in missing Briton couple case

Evidence of bloodied car and money transfers emerges at hearing of third accused in missing Briton couple case.
Evidence of bloodied car and money transfers emerges at hearing of third accused in missing Briton couple case.
Image: STOCK IMAGE

Cell phones stolen from abducted Britons Rod and Rachel Saunders - found in the possession of Eshowe teenager Themba Xulu - are expected to help police decode the circumstances around their kidnapping.

The latter two accused remain at the centre of the high-level probe‚ facing charges related to terrorism.

The Saunders‚ who have lived in Cape Town for a number of years‚ remain missing

Patel‚ Del Vecchio and Xulu stand accused of siphoning R700‚000 from the elderly couple’s bank accounts.

Jewellery‚ electronics and camping gear were also purchased using stolen credit cards. State Advocate Adele Barnard told the court that Xulu would face charges of kidnapping‚ robbery with aggravating circumstances and theft‚ the latter relating to money drained from the Saunders’ accounts.

She revealed that large amounts of blood were found in the back of the couple’s stolen car which was recovered by police last week.

“We are still waiting on the forensics report [as to whose blood it is] so the charges in this matter may change to murder‚” she said.

She added that two cellphones‚ one which was found in Xulu’s possession and a second which was later handed to investigators‚ were likely used to make internet bank transfers.

He had‚ at one point‚ inserted his own sim card into both of the cell phones.

“We have evidence at this stage that they [cellphones] were used to make payments.”

The cellphones have since been sent to forensic analysts who will determine to what extent they‚ via online banking applications‚ were used to send a flurry of payments out of the bank account of Rachel Saunders.

“We are still to confirm the extent of the involvement of accused 3 [Xulu] in the commission of these crimes‚” Barnard added.

Days before the Saunders went missing‚ the local and international experts in seedlings and indigenous plants visited the Drakensburg with a BBC film crew.

According to the papers before court‚ over and above the kidnapping and theft charges‚ both Patel and Del Vecchio are alleged to have contravened the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorists and Related Activities Act by hoisting an ISIS flag at Ndlovini Reserve.

Del Vecchio faces a second count‚ for his involvement in “extremist” web forums.

He is “connected with terrorist activities by participating in extremist web forums that support ISIS and offering to supply phone numbers and sim cards that are not traceable”‚ the charge sheet reads.

The kidnapping prompted the British government to post a travel advisory‚ detailing the threat of terror attacks on foreign interests in South Africa.

Court proceedings will continue on Wednesday.

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