Trial date set for 'Isis trio' accused of botanists' murder

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

A trial date in the matter against three alleged Isis affiliates accused of the 2018 murders of two elderly botanists has been set for 2021.

Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ his wife Fatima Patel and their Malawian boarder, Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa, appeared briefly in the Durban high court on Monday where it was decided that their matter would be set down for trial between January 18 and February 18.

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

The case has recently been plagued with delays with consultation being an issue since Del Vecchio and Mussa were transferred to Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad after prison officials said they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility in May last year.

Patel remains at Durban's Westville prison.

The accused recently acquired the services of renowned advocate Jimmy Howse, after abandoning legal aid but it is unclear who is paying their legal fees.

Farhad Hoomer, the Durban businessman who had been implicated in the 2018 Verulam mosque attack and a series of firebomb attacks at retail outlets in the months that followed, declined to comment when TimesLIVE questioned him as to whether he was paying for the trio's legal team.

TimesLIVE


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