Alleged Isis loyalists' bold breakout 'plot' thwarted in KZN
An audacious escape plot‚ which would have seen three alleged Isis acolytes overpower policemen and shoot their way out of the court building‚ was the central focus of an otherwise routine appearance of the trio on Friday.
Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ 38‚ his wife Fatima Patel‚ 27‚ and Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa‚ 36‚ all shuffled into the dock in leg irons and handcuffs before Magistrate Irfaan Khalil.
The court heard that the three had been shackled and that police and prison manpower had been bolstered after a “credible threat” that they may attempt a bold prison break.
The couple and Mussa have been charged with the kidnapping and murder of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders. The elderly botanists are understood to have been murdered in February while they toured KwaZulu-Natal.
The state contends that the three are loyal to the international terror group and had been in the process of planning terror attacks on South African soil.
According to a statement penned by investigating officer Anuresh AJ Lutchman‚ he had received information from an informant laying bare their plans for the alleged breakout.
“I received information from a credible source that the accused would try and escape while appearing in court. The accused might try and attack the court staff and escape.
“The accused were to disarm the policemen in the courtroom and use their firearms to make good their escape."
Lutchman said that the informer had been credible in previous instances. He said special arrangements to bolster the police contingent‚ over and above the shackles and chains‚ were made to protect the court and the public.
Del Vecchio was moved from the Westville Prison to the Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad in March after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility. He has been kept in isolation for four months while Patel and Mussa remain at the Durban remand centre.
Mondli Mthethwa‚ for the three‚ said that they were innocent until proven guilty and their bonds would infringe on their opportunity for a fair trial.
Magistrate Irfaan Khalil ruled that their rights had to be protected and that the recognition of their human dignity remained at the centre of the country’s constitution.
He ruled that the leg irons and handcuffs be removed before proceedings commenced‚ with Del Vecchio turning to the gallery and wearing a large grin as officers unshackled him.
Advocate Adele Barnard revealed that investigations into the murders and terror plot were still underway.
The matter was remanded to December 12.