Delays in suspected 'Isis trio' matter as defence cites consultation issues

Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8 2018. The couple were soon after found murdered, while three people believed to have Isis links were arrested.
Horticulturalist and BBC presenter Nick Bailey posted this selfie with British couple Rod and Rachel Saunders on February 8 2018. The couple were soon after found murdered, while three people believed to have Isis links were arrested.
Image: Nick Bailey via Twitter

The matter against three alleged Isis affiliates accused of the 2018 murder of two elderly botanists experienced further delays when the trio appeared in the Durban high court on Monday. 

Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ his wife Fatima Patel and their Malawian boarder, Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa, appeared briefly in court where their matter had been set down for pre-trial. 

The matter against the trio, charged with the kidnapping and murder of British-born Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders in northern KwaZulu-Natal in February 2018, had been transferred to the high court as early as May. However the case was hampered by setbacks due to strict Covid-19 regulations, which included issues concerning the transportation of inmates to and from prison during lockdown. 

The matter was postponed to allow the accused sufficient time to consult with their defence. 

Consultation has been an issue since Del Vecchio and Mussa were transferred to Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility back in May last year. 

Patel remains at Durban's Westville prison. 

The accused only recently acquired the services of a renowned legal brain, Jimmy Howse, after abandoning legal aid. 

However it is unclear who is paying their legal fees. 

Farhad Hoomer, the Durban businessman who had been implicated in the 2018 Verulam mosque attack and a series of firebomb attacks at retail outlets in the months that followed, declined to comment when TimesLIVE questioned him as to whether he was paying for the trio's legal team. 

Hoomer, who sat in the public gallery on Monday, and 11 others recently had their matter struck off the roll in the Verulam family court. 

Hoomer has, on more than one occasion, attended the matter of Del Vecchio, Patel and Mussa. 

The trio were arrested after the disappearance of the couple, who had been touring northern KwaZulu-Natal in search of rare plants and seeds.

Less than a week after the botanists went missing, police pounced on Del Vecchio's hilltop camp in the foothills of the Endlovini area.

Police allege that Del Vecchio planned and executed the killings.

The accused also face charges of theft and counts relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

© TimesLIVE


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