Bail denied for KZN couple claimed to be Islamic State loyalists
A bail application by alleged Islamic State (IS) loyalists Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and his wife Fatima Patel failed in the Verulam Regional Court on Thursday.
The couple‚ along with a boarder‚ Ahmad "Bazooka" Mussa‚ are alleged to have kidnapped and murdered British-born‚ Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
The elderly botanists are understood to have been murdered in February while they toured the province. The mortal remains of Rod Saunders were found on the Tugela River banks and identified using DNA profiling two weeks ago. The remains of Rachel Saunders have not yet been found.
Magistrate Irfaan Khalil denied Del Vecchio’s and Patel’s application for bail‚ saying they had failed to outline exceptional circumstances that warranted their release ahead of their trial. A key pillar of Del Vecchio and Patel’s application was that the state had a weak case against them‚ and included allegations that the kidnapping of the Saunders had been staged by the CIA or FBI.
The pair‚ along with Mussa‚ are alleged to have drained the Saunders’ bank accounts then murdered them before dumping the bodies from a bridge into the crocodile-infested river.
The prominent botanists‚ who had 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.
Del Vecchio said the state did not have any evidence that the couple had been kidnapped. He went on to turn on his former friend Mussa‚ accusing him of being a secret agent. "I am now beginning to believe that ‘Bazooka’ may have been an appointed agent to establish evidence against my wife and [me]‚ resulting in the current arrest."
TimesLIVE previously reported that startling allegations 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 IS‚ had been before court. The evidence‚ the police alleged‚ had been gathered by combing through messages on phones seized from Del Vecchio and Patel.
Del Vecchio said that he‚ Patel and Mussa all used each other’s phones and attempted to put distance between himself and police allegations that he had sent messages regarding "hunting" the Saunders.