Police confirmed on Wednesday that they have found the body of missing Cape Town-based horticulturist Rodney Saunders, but his wife Rachel is still missing. The couple – who have duel South African and British citizenship – were allegedly kidnapped on February 12 while on holiday at Bivane Dam in Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal.

Rodney’s body was discovered by fishermen on February 17 in the Tugela River, but has only now been positively identified. Police said a dedicated team are still searching for Rachel.

Four suspects have been arrested in connection with their abduction. The suspects, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio (38) and Fatima Patel (27), Themba Xulu (19) and Ahmad Mussa (36) faces charges of kidnapping, robbery, two counts of murder and possession of stolen property, as well as the possible contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

The Saunders’ are well-known horticulturists who own a Kenilworth based company called Silverhill Seeds. Based on social media posts, they were in KZN in search of a rare plant species. Their vehicle was recovered by police shortly after their disappearance, and a fair amount of blood was found at the back of the car.

An amount of R700‚000 was siphoned from their bank accounts after their disappearance. Jewellery‚ electronics and camping gear were also bought using their stolen credit cards.

Their cellphones were used to make EFT transfers from the couple’s bank accounts. Papers before court suggest that Patel and Del Vecchio are alleged to have contravened the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorists and Related Activities Act by hoisting an ISIS flag at Ndlovini Reserve. Del Vecchio also faces another charge for his association in “extremist” web forums.

Patel and Del Vecchio face other charges of arson for allegedly torching and destroying hectares of sugar cane fields in 2017.


Picture: Twitter

Article written by

Nidha Narrandes

Nidha Narrandes is a food-obsessed travel addict with 21 years of journalism experience. Her motto - Travel. Eat. Repeat. She is happiest on a road to nowhere without a plan. A masterchef at home, she can't do without chilli - because chilli makes the world a tastier place.