Missing Britons were a 'good hunt' for alleged KZN Isis loyalists

06 March 2018 - 15:34
By Jeff Wicks
Court papers revealed that, according to police, British-born couple Rod and Rachel Saunders (right and centre) were a
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter Court papers revealed that, according to police, British-born couple Rod and Rachel Saunders (right and centre) were a "good hunt" for alleged Isis members operating in KZN. This picture was tweeted by horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey shortly before the couple went missing.

Startling allegations that missing Britons Rod and Rachel Saunders may have been stalked as a “good hunt” by Isis loyalists to strike fear into the heart those opposed to the caliphate were placed before the Verulam Magistrate’s court on Tuesday.

This as the frantic search the missing British-born botanists‚ who moved to Cape Town decades ago‚ enters its third week.

Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ 38‚ Fatima Patel‚ 27 and 19-year-old Themba Xulu are accused of engineering the disappearance of the prominent couple‚ who were last seen while touring the northern reaches of the province. It is believed they were abducted from the Ngoye Forest‚ outside Mthunzini.

An affidavit deposed by the investigating officer‚ which was submitted to the court on Tuesday‚ plotted out what may have been the Saunders’ final days‚ and gave grave insight into what may have befallen them.

According to the statement‚ police mined evidence of communication between Del Vecchio‚ Patel and a third man with the alias “Bazooka”. The communications stretched over six days after the Saunders’ were last heard from.

“On February 9 there are discussions of preparing to kill the kuffar [non-believer] and abduct their allies‚ to destroy infrastructure and to put fear in to the heart of the kuffar.

“On February 10‚ Del Vecchio had mentioned to Patel and Bazooka that there is an elderly couple in the forest‚ that it is a ‘good hunt’ and that they had equipment‚” the papers read.

In an unrelated discussion on the same day‚ the officer alleges that Del Vecchio had given “guidance” that the victims of caliphate fighters should be made to disappear.

“When the brothers in Kenya go out and do this work it is very important that the body of the victim is never found and that it remains a missing person case‚” the statement continues.

Financial evidence‚ as well as communication between the co-accused‚ detail how the Saunders’ bank accounts were accessed. The suspects are understood to have embarked on a shopping spree‚ buying drones‚ camping equipment and paintball guns from Cape Union Mart.

According to papers before court‚ over and above the kidnapping and theft charges levelled against all three‚ Patel and Del Vecchio are alleged to have contravened the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act by hoisting an Islamic State flag at their home in the Ndlovini Reserve near Eshowe.

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 [Islamic State] and offering to supply phone numbers and sim cards that are not traceable”‚ the charge sheet read.

Advocate Jay Naidoo‚ acting for Del Vecchio and Patel‚ told the court that he needed time to consult with his clients and was unprepared to commence with a formal bail application. Xulu‚ via his legal aid attorney Mondli Mthethwa‚ had forged ahead with his bid for liberty‚ with judgement reserved by Vallaraman Kathuravaloo.