Alleged Isis loyalists accused of killing elderly botanists back in court

Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8, 2018. The couple went missing in a case linked to terror group Isis.
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8, 2018. The couple went missing in a case linked to terror group Isis.
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

The case against three alleged Isis loyalists - who stand accused of kidnapping and brutally murdering British-born Cape Town botanists Rodney and Rachael Saunders - is set to resume at the Verulam Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

It's been more than a year since Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio, his wife, Fatima Patel, and their boarder, Ahmad "Bazooka" Mussa, were arrested in connection with the Saunders' murder.

The trio face charges of kidnapping, theft and murder, as well as those relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities Act.

They were arrested following the disappearance of the Saunders, who had been touring northern KZN in search of rare plants and seeds, in February last year.

In less than a week since anyone had last heard from the elderly botanists, police pounced on Del Vechhio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlonvini area, on the outskirts of Eshowe, in northern KZN.

Police allege that Del Vecchio had planned and executed the killing of the couple.

All three accused were initially detained at Durban's Westville prison, however Del Vecchio was later transferred to Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility.

During their last appearance in December, Del Vecchio informed the court that he had been ill-treated at Ebongweni, the country's most secure prison.

"I had fractured ribs and I was naked and beaten ... my feet were chained and I slept on a floor covered in water in winter," he said. 

Meanwhile, requests to governments of Somalia and the Netherlands under the Mutual Legal Assistance Act have been finalised by the state. The state previously noted that the case against the accused had strong international links.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

X