Lockdown keeps 'Isis trio' from court as botanist murder trial adjourned

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 matter involving three alleged Isis affiliates accused of the 2018 murder of two elderly botanists was adjourned in the Durban high court on Friday.

The case against Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ his wife Fatima Patel and their Malawian boarder, Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa, proceeded in their absence as Covid-19 regulations have yet to allow the transportation of prisoners to court.

Senior state prosecutor Mahen Naidu said the case had been adjourned to July 22 for the accused to be brought to court and pretrial.

They have been charged with the kidnapping and murder of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders in February 2018. They were arrested after the disappearance of the couple, who had been touring northern KwaZulu-Natal in search of rare plants and seeds.

Less than a week after the elderly botanists went missing, police pounced on Del Vecchio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlovini area, in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Police allege that Del Vecchio planned and executed the killings.

All three accused were initially detained at Durban's Westville prison. 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.


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