Body of miss­ing botanist found af­ter four months

The Mercury - - NEWS - Nabee­lah Shaikh

THE body of miss­ing Cape Town botanist Rachel Saun­ders has been found af­ter an ex­ten­sive four-month search.

In­ter­na­tion­ally renowned botanists Rachel Saun­ders, 63, and her hus­band Rod, 73, went miss­ing on Fe­bru­ary 12 in the Bi­vane Dam area near Vry­heid in KwaZulu-Natal.

Four days later, fol­low­ing an alert that two sus­pects on a ter­ror watch list had gone on a spend­ing spree with the cou­ple’s credit cards, po­lice swooped on an Ngoye home­stead near Mtun­zini.

Say­fy­deen As­lam Del Vec­chio, 38, and Fa­tima Pa­tel, 27, were ar­rested there.

Two other sus­pects, Themba Xulu and Jackson Ahmed Mussa, were also ar­rested.

The hus­band’s body was found in the croc­o­dile-in­fested Tugela River in April.

Hawks spokesper­son Cap­tain Lloyd Ramovha said Rachel’s body had been pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied.

“A multi-pronged in­ves­ti­ga­tion last week led to the pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the mor­tal re­mains of Rachel Saun­ders.

Rod­ney’s body was iden­ti­fied in April af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions led to the ar­rest of four sus­pects,” said Ramovha.

Ramovha said DNA re­sults had pos­i­tively iden­ti­fied the body af­ter an ex­ten­sive search at gov­ern­ment mor­tu­ar­ies around the prov­ince to test for a match.

He said the Hawks still don’t know where the body was found.

Ramovha said Xulu had sub­se­quently en­tered into a plea bar­gain with the State.

He was con­victed and sen­tenced on May 25 to three years im­pris­on­ment, sus­pended for five years for il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of stolen prop­erty, which in­cluded the vic­tims’ cell­phones.

The other three ac­cused re­main in cus­tody and are ex­pected to appear in the Veru­lam Mag­is­trate’s Court in Au­gust.

They face a raft of charges which in­clude kid­nap­ping, rob­bery with ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances, two counts of murder as well as pos­ses­sion of stolen prop­erty.

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