Body of missing UK botanist Rachel Saunders finally found

13 June 2018 - 16:57 By Thando Mpembe
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8. File photo
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8. File photo
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

The body of 63-year-old British botanist Rachel Saunders‚ who had been missing since February‚ has been found‚ the Hawks confirmed on Wednesday.

"A multi-pronged investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and the police's forensic science laboratory has last week led to the positive identification of the mortal remains of Rachel Saunders‚ who was allegedly kidnapped in February 2018 together with her husband Rodney Saunders‚ in KwaZulu-Natal‚" said Captain Lloyd Ramovha.

He said Saunders's body had been found after police had been searching morgues for unidentified bodies since April. One of the unidentified bodies turned out to be that of Rachel Saunders‚ said Ramovha.

He would not immediately disclose how she had died or at which morgue the body had been found‚ stating only that this would be revealed in court.

The remains of Rachel's 72-year-old husband had been found on the banks of the Tugela River in KwaZulu-Natal in February.

The couple‚ who were both prominent botanists who have lived in Cape Town for about 30 years‚ were last seen on February 10 near Bivane Dam on the outskirts of Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal.

Four people had been arrested in connection with their killing. They were named as alleged Isis acolytes Sayfudeen Aslam del Vecchio‚ 38‚ Fatima Patel‚ 37‚ and Ahmad Jackson Mussa‚ 36‚ and their teenage neighbour‚ Thembamandla Xulu‚ 19.

Xulu had entered into plea negotiation with the state.

"He was convicted and sentenced on May 25 to three years’ imprisonment‚ suspended for five years for illegal possession of stolen property (the victims’ cell phones)‚" said Ramovha.

Startling allegations that the vanished couple may have been stalked as a “good hunt” by Del Vecchio and Patel‚ apparently to "strike fear into the hearts of those opposed" to Isis‚ have already been placed before the Verulam Magistrate’s Court.

TimesLIVE earlier reported that Mussa had led police to the river.

Reports are that the missing couple had been placed in sleeping bags and thrown into the water.

Police search and rescue unit officers were dispatched to the area to search for the couple‚ with their effort hampered by the presence of crocodiles and later heavy rains.

Rodney Saunders' remains had been found long before the first search of the banks‚ and were subsequently tested and positively identified.

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