A British couple was kidnapped, killed and fed to crocodiles while searching for rare seeds in a South African nature reserve, a court heard on Tuesday.
Horticulturist Rod Saunders, 74, and his wife, microbiologist Dr. Rachel Saunders, 63, were camping in the remote Ngoye Forest Reserve when they disappeared in February 2018, on Informed daily mail.
The last time the couple was heard from was on February 2. On February 8, when they told an employee about their plans to camp on the reserve 30 miles north of Durban.
Police now say Sayefundeen Aslam Del Vecchio, his wife, Bibi Fatima Patel, and their landlord Mussa Ahmad Jackson kidnapped, robbed and murdered the couple on the night of February 2. 10, the same day they were reported missing.
Among the evidence presented in Durban High Court this week was text messages from Del Vecchio to Patel and Jackson claiming an elderly couple were nearby to “object” to a “hunt”.
Another message to an unknown person said “it is very important that the bodies of the victims are never found.”
Del Vecchio and Patel, who are believed to have flown an Islamic State flag from their home, were already on a watch list when they were arrested on February 2. 15, 2018.
When Jackson was arrested a few weeks later, he reportedly told police how he and Patel helped Del Vecchio dump the bodies wrapped in sleeping bags into the river.
While the badly decomposed remains of both victims were discovered within days of the murder, they went unidentified for several months.
A search warrant also revealed receipts for items purchased with Rachel Saunders’ bank card in Patel’s purse and led to the recovery of the victims’ bloodied Land Cruiser.
It was later discovered that a fourth suspect had purchased cell phones belonging to the Saunders. The individual received a suspended sentence in exchange for crucial information.
Based in Cape Town, the Saunders ran Silverhill Seeds, an online ordering company that sold rare seeds to customers around the world. They usually spent half the year walking through mountains and forests to take inventory.
In the days before their disappearance, the Saunderses were profiled for an episode of the BBC’s “Gardener’s World.”
A selfie of them with host Nick Bailey is believed to be the last photo of them alive.
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