Any time news breaks and there’s a chunk of vital information missing, you can’t help but feel that the State is up to something.
It was first revealed that the missing Cape Town couple had been in contact with a KwaZulu Natal-based couple affiliated with ISIS, but an affidavit presented at the latter’s court hearing on Tuesday reveals the depth and detail of the kidnapping plot.
As it stands, the bodies of the now-named Rodney and Rachel Saunders have yet to be found, but the affidavit in the alleged kidnapping case of the Cape-based botanists is the first indication that they may no longer be alive.
The statement reveals “chilling details of an alleged premeditated murder plot and collusion in disposing of their bodies,” reports IOL.
Married under traditional Islamic law, Sayefudeen Del Vecchio [below], 37, and Fatima Patel, 27, were arrested on February 15 at their homestead near Mtunzini.
On February 26, 19-year-old Thembamandla Xulu, who lived with the couple, was also arrested.
All three have been charged with the alleged kidnapping, assault and robbery of the Saunders. Del Vecchio and Patel are also facing terrorism charges.
Below, Rachel and Rodney Saunders with BBC gardening presenter Nick Bailey on the left:
Appearing in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court for formal bail application, the trio was subjected to an affidavit filed by investigative officer, Detective Warrant Officer Anuresh Lutchman, who opposed bail on several grounds.
Lutchman explained that “multiple chat room conversations on encrypted messaging services would form part of the evidence”:
“On 9 February 2018 there [were] discussions of preparing to kill the kuffar [non-believer] and abduct their allies, to destroy infrastructure and to put the fear in the heart of the kuffar,” said Lutchman’s affidavit.
“On 10 February 2018, [Del Vecchio] mentioned to [Patel] and Bazooka (the nickname of the man still being sought by the police) that there is an elderly couple in the forest, that it is a “good hunt” and that they had equipment. The conversation continued between the accused in a similar manner and later [Del Vecchio] confirmed that he has the target.”
Not a good look.
Worse still, at the couple’s homestead, Lutchman described how he found a flag that was consistent with those used by ISIS. Other items included a “drone, camping equipment, two generators and paintball equipment, amongst others,” all purchased with Rachel’s bank card.
Xulu was found with two cellphones belonging to the Saunders in his possession, with his sim cards inside the phones. However, he was unable to explain how he got them.
And so the search continues for the couple, who were merely on a mission to find a bunch of rare seeds.
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