Fourth arrest in KZN terror cell and missing couple mystery

23 March 2018 - 14:29 By Jeff Wicks
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8. The couple have since gone 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. The couple have since gone missing in a case linked to terror group Isis.
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

Anti-terror agents and Hawks operatives have made a breakthrough in their search for missing Britons Rod and Rachel Saunders with the arrest of a fourth suspect on Thursday night.

The man cannot be named until he has appeared before a court.

Several sources confirmed to TimesLIVE that the man was arrested after being sought for nearly a month.

The fourth suspect is understood to be a close cohort of Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ 38‚ Fatima Patel‚ 27. The husband and wife pair‚ accused of fostering close ties ISIS‚ remain at the centre of the international terror probe. They‚ along with their 19-year-old neighbour Themba Xulu‚ were arrested when police received “intelligence” that the Saunders’ had gone missing while on a tour of the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. The elderly botanists‚ of Cape Town‚ remain missing.

Startling allegations that the vanished couple may have been stalked as a “good hunt” by Del Vecchio and Patel‚ to strike fear into the heart those opposed to the caliphate‚ were placed before the Verulam Magistrate’s court.

An affidavit deposed by the investigating officer 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.

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 [the other man] 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.

The papers before court detail that the suspect’s passport was found in one of the rooms in Del Vecchio’s house.

“A preliminary analysis of digital devices found in Del Vecchio’s possession indicates [the suspect’s] involvement in the commission of the crimes.”

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