Evidence of bodies dumped into a river and homemade bombs at bail hearing for 'Isis' accused

25 April 2018 - 18:40 By Jeff Wicks
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8. 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. The couple went missing in a case linked to terror group ISIS.
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

The bodies of Britons Rod and Rachel Saunders – alleged to have been kidnapped and murdered by a cabal loyal to terror group Isis - were bundled into sleeping bags and thrown into the Tugela River after they’d been slain.

How the Cape Town-based couple were killed‚ and what played out in their final hours remains a mystery. The startling revelations were placed before Magistrate Irfaan Khalil in the Verulam Regional Court as Fatima Patel‚ 37‚ and Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ 38‚ applied for bail on Wednesday.

The husband and wife pair and their alleged cohorts‚ Ahmad Jackson Mussa‚ 36‚ and 19-year-old Themba Xulu‚ were arrested in the wake of the Saunders’ disappearance in February.

The court appearance came as news broke that forensic results confirmed that human remains found had been positively identified as that of Rodney Saunders.

The remains were found downstream from the bridge from which the bodies were alleged to have been thrown.

Patel and Del Vecchio face charges of murder‚ kidnapping‚ robbery and contravening domestic counter-terrorism laws.

According to an affidavit deposed by investigating officer Anuresh Lutchman‚ the pair had worked in close concert with Mussa‚ who lived on their property on the outskirts of Eshowe.

According to evidence gathered from examining cell phones and other electronic devices seized during the course of their arrest‚ the trio had plotted to rob “targets” for cash‚ jewellery and equipment.

“Del Vecchio confirmed in a Telegram chat with an unknown person ‘I only have one man and [a] lioness so we can only try small stuff’.”

...Mussa saw two heads of white people in the sleeping bags.

The key insight into what befell the prominent botanists‚ thought to have been snatched and murdered while they toured the northern reaches of KZN in February‚ was extracted from Mussa in a statement after his arrest.

“Mussa made a statement to the effect that he was woken up by Patel… [who] told him that they must meet Del Vecchio on the road‚” Lutchman said.

“Del Vecchio was driving a Toyota [a vehicle belonging to the Saunders] and they [Mussa and Patel] followed him until they reached the Tugela River Bridge. They assisted Del Vecchio to remove sleeping bags from the back of the Toyota and Mussa saw two heads of white people in the sleeping bags.”

Lutchman also revealed that during the police swoop on Del Vecchio and Patel’s compound they found a cell phone which had been modified to be used to trigger bombs.

“Bomb plans on how to make a cell phone detonate IED [improvised explosive device] was also found on the digital downloads of Del Vecchio.”

Hawks spokesman Captain Lloyd Ramovha said that the search for the body of Rachel Saunders was continuing.

"A dedicated team remain on the ground for the search of Rachel. The focus includes the mortuaries where unidentified bodies found within the search period are currently being subjected to forensic analysis and DNA tests. Further results are awaited in this regard."

Further arguments in the bail application will be heard on May 10.


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