Missing Botanist Couple Beaten & Fed To Crocodiles, According To Shocking Murder Trial

What a shocking crime… Hopefully some small measure of justice is coming?

After four and a half years, a trial is finally underway this week for the brutal murders of Rob and Rachel Saunders. The couple left their home in Cape Town on February 5, 2018, to head to the Drakensberg Mountain area of South Africa. During a search for some rare Gladioli seeds for their online store Silverhill Seed, the two gave an interview on the BBC television show Gardeners’ World. They also snapped a picture with presenter Nick Bailey (above), who posted it to social media. It may be the last snapshots of the couple ever taken.

Shortly afterward, the pair left the TV crew and set up camp by a dam in a remote forest. But the trip soon took a turn for the worse. According to The Telegraph, Rob and Rachel last contacted their employees on February 8, telling staffers they were heading to the Ngoye Forest Reserve. They were never heard from again. By February 10, everyone became concerned. And they were right to be worried — authorities believe the couple were murdered some time in the next few days.

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Rachel’s body was found in the River Tugela on February 14, while Rod’s was found on February 17 by local fishermen. However, the bodies were not initially linked to the missing couple at first as their decomposed remains were completely unrecognizable. It took months later for DNA tests to confirm the bodies were Rod and Rachel.

It’s believed they were kidnapped and then beaten to death with a blunt instrument and thrown into the Tugela river — for the crocodiles to eat their remains.

So, so awful…

On February 15, 2018, another couple, Sayefundeen Aslam Del Vecchio and his wife Bibi Fatima Patel, were arrested at their home in Endlovini — just 30 miles from the Ngoye forest where the Saunders had vanished. They were charged with murder, kidnapping, robbery, and theft — but denied all charges in Durban High Court. A third suspect, Mussa Ahmad Jackson, was also arrested. He was not accused of being involved in the murders but was found to have purchased cell phones belonging to the Saunderses. Mussa was given a suspended sentence for giving the authorities crucial evidence.

The arrests came after police found a link between the Saunderses’ cell phones and the cell phones of the suspects. They then obtained a search warrant. According to court transcripts we know someone was using the murdered couple’s ATM cards after their disappearance. Several items bought on the bank cards were uncovered in Del Vecchio and Patel’s possession, including receipts in Bibi’s purse, which matched the date and time the purchases made on the card. Rob and Rachel’s vehicle was also recovered on February 19, containing large amounts of blood in the cargo area, which was later confirmed to belong to Rachel.

Jackson’s cooperation helped, too. He told police he was woken up by Bibi at their home on February 10 and told to meet with Sayefundeen, where he helped them throw the bodies in a river to be devoured by crocodiles. Per court transcripts from this week:

“On March 23, the third accused Mussa Ahmad Jackson was arrested and he made a statement to the effect he was woken by Patel at their home on February 10 and told to meet Del Vecchio on the road. Del Vecchio in the Land Cruiser and Patel and Jackson followed to the Tugela River Bridge where they helped him remove sleeping bags from the back of the Toyota and they threw them with human bodies inside into the river.”

Seems pretty cut and dry, considering all that evidence AND the couple’s alleged accomplice in disposing of the bodies turning on them.

Absolutely horrible what happened here. But at least it looks like a conviction is inevitable, right? Reactions, Perezcious readers?

[Image via Nick Bailey/Twitter]

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