Accused in elderly botanists' murders remanded as legal teams talk

30 October 2019 - 15:33 By Orrin Singh
Alleged Isis acolytes Fatima Patel, Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Ahmad 'Bazooka' Mussa are accused of murdering botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
Alleged Isis acolytes Fatima Patel, Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Ahmad 'Bazooka' Mussa are accused of murdering botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
Image: JACKIE CLAUSEN

The case against three alleged Isis acolytes was postponed in the Verulam family court on Wednesday for the state and defence to resolve issues regarding lengthy delays in the matter. 

Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ his wife Fatima Patel  and Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa appeared before magistrate Irfaan Khalil.  

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 2018.

The matter proceeded behind closed doors with only members of the Hawks, National Prosecuting Authority and media allowed into the immediate court vicinity due to security concerns. 

The trio face charges of kidnapping, theft and murder, as well as counts relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities Act.

They were arrested following the disappearance of the Saunders couple, who had been touring northern KZN in search of rare plants and seeds.

Less than a week since the elderly botanists went missing, police pounced on Del Vechhio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlonvini area, on the outskirts of Eshowe, in northern KZN.

Police allege that Del Vecchio had planned and executed the killings.

All three accused were initially detained at Durban's Westville prison, however Del Vecchio and Mussa were later transferred to Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility.

They are expected back in court on November 14. 


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