Human remains found belong to missing British botanist

Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8.
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8.
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

DNA tests conducted on human remains found on the banks of the Tugela River in February have confirmed it to be from missing Cape Town Briton Rodney Saunders.

A source close in the investigation‚ who spoke to TimesLIVE on condition of anonymity‚ confirmed that the remains had been identified as that of the elderly botantist.

Saunders and his wife Rachel‚ 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.

The confirmation came as three accused of orchestrating their kidnapping and murder of Saunders and his wife Rachel appeared in the Verulam Regional Court on Wednesday.

Alleged Isis acolytes Sayfudeen Aslam del Vecchio‚ 38‚ Fatima Patel‚ 37‚ and Ahmad Jackson Mussa‚ 36‚ sat huddled in the dock on Wednesday. The court heard that their teenage neighbour and co-accused Themba Xulu‚ 19 has entered into plea negotiations with the state.

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 and 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. The human remains had been found long before the first search of the banks‚ and were subsequently tested.

The body of Rachel Saunders has not yet been found.

- TimesLIVE

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