Suspected 'Isis trio' to be tried for botanists' murder in high court

Alleged Isis acolytes Fatima Patel, Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Ahmad 'Bazooka' Mussa are accused of murdering botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
Alleged Isis acolytes Fatima Patel, Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Ahmad 'Bazooka' Mussa are accused of murdering botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
Image: JACKIE CLAUSEN

The matter involving three alleged Isis affiliates accused of the 2018 murder of two elderly botanists has been set down for pre-trial at the Durban high court. 

Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ his wife Fatima Patel and their Malawian boarder, Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa, briefly appeared before magistrate Irfaan Khalil in the Verulam family court on Wednesday. 

The trio is charged with the kidnapping and murder of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders in February 2018.

The state served indictments on all three accused and the matter was postponed to May 29 for pre-trial at the Durban high court.

The accused recently acquired the services of a renowned legal brain Jimmy Howse after abandoning legal aid. 

They also face charges of theft and counts relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

They were arrested following the disappearance of the couple, who had been touring northern KwaZulu-Natal in search of rare plants and seeds.

Less than a week after the elderly botanists went missing, police pounced on Del Vecchio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlovini area, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Police allege that Del Vecchio planned and executed the killings.

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

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