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British couple killed and thrown to crocodiles days after being interviewed by BBC

Niamh Spence

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British couple killed and thrown to crocodiles days after being interviewed by BBC

A British couple were brutally killed and their bodies thrown into a river filled with crocodiles in South Africa, just days after they happily appeared on BBC's Gardeners' World.

Botanists Rod Saunders and his wife Rachel spent six months a year searching wild mountains for rare seeds stock for their online business.

It was their pursuit of these rare seeds that led to them travelling to the Drakensberg Mountain region in South Africa, which would ultimately lead to their gruesome murder.

The pair were interviewed by TV presenter Nick Bailey for an episode of Gardeners World shortly before they died. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society
The pair were interviewed by TV presenter Nick Bailey for an episode of Gardeners World shortly before they died. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society

Accompanied by a BBC film crew in February 2018, the pair were interviewed on the popular gardening programme Gardeners' World by TV presenter Nick Bailey as they continued their horticultural search.

Expert horticulturist Rod and microbiologist wife Rachel were seen in a selfie on Rod's Twitter in what is now believed to be their last photo alive, before they parter company with the film crew and headed off to camp in a remote forest.

They were last seen alive on 8 February

The married couple were beaten to death with blunt instruments, then put in their sleeping bags and thrown into a river infested with predators. Their unrecognisable bodies were pulled from the river by fishermen days later.

The couple's bodies were only identified after police could find no trace of them, and ordered all unidentified or unclaimed bodies in morgues to be tested for DNA.

Now three people have been charged with the gruesome killing as well as kidnap, robbery and theft of the married couple. They are currently on trial in South Africa at Durban High Court.

The pair were beaten to death before their bodies were thrown off a bridge and eaten by predators. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society
The pair were beaten to death before their bodies were thrown off a bridge and eaten by predators. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society

The three defendants are Sayefundeen Aslam Del Vecchio, his wife Bibi Fatima Patel, and their lodger at the time Mussa Ahmad Jackson. All three deny the charges against them.

An additional fourth suspect was also involved in the case and found to have bought cell phones belonging to the Saunders. However they were cleared of the kidnap and murder, and given a suspended sentence in exchange for their evidence in the case.

The Durban High Court was told: "Around February 10 the investigating officer received information that Rodney Saunders and his wife Dr Rachel Saunders from Cape Town had been kidnapped in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region.

"It was established on February 13 that the defendants were drawing money from various ATM's which amounted to theft of R734,000 (£37,000) and there was the robbery of their Land Cruiser and of camping equipment.

"It is alleged that between February 10 and 15 at the Ngoye Forest the accused did unlawfully and intentionally kill Rachel Saunders and between the same dates did unlawfully and intentionally kill Rodney Sanders."

Three stand accused of the kidnap, murder, robbery and theft of the married couple. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society
Three stand accused of the kidnap, murder, robbery and theft of the married couple. Credit: Pacific Bulb Society

One piece of the incriminating evidence against the three include shopping receipts bought on Dr Saunders's bank card, which were recovered from Bibi Patel's handbag.

Another piece of evidence included a text message sent on 10 February from Del Vecchio to his wife and lodger stating there was an elderly couple in the forest. The message also said that it is a good 'hunt' and he has the 'target'.

The trial continues.

Featured Image Credit: Pacific Bulb Society

Topics: UK News, BBC, Crime

Niamh Spence
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