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A British couple who ran a business in South Africa were bludgeoned to death and their bodies thrown to crocodiles, a court has heard.
The three people on trial have alleged links to ISIS and are also accused of embarking on a £37,000 spending spree with the couple’s credit cards.
In February 2018, British botanists Rod Saunders, 74, and his wife Rachel, 63, were beaten to death in a remote forest in South Africa while searching for rare seeds for their mail-order business, Silverhill Seeds.
A court in Durban heard that married couple Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Bibi Fatima Patel, helped by their lodger Mussa Ahmed Jackson, kidnapped the couple before putting their bodies in sleeping bags and throwing them off a bridge over a crocodile-infested river.
The Saunders’ remains were discovered days later but only identified following DNA testing.
A doctor told the court that examination of the bodies showed evidence of what he called “scavenger activity” adding: ”The damage to the bodies suggests that something could have fed on them.
“For example a crocodile due to the lost tissue on the arms, neck and chest.”
The court was told that the couple had suffered blunt trauma injuries in a horrific act of violence.
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Rod and Rachel Saunders were famous botanists, and spent six months each year in remote South African mountains searching for rare Gladioli plant seeds.
A search of the trio’s homes uncovered an array of ISIS propaganda, including ISIS pamphlets and flags while messages on their phones discussed “killing the kuffar” and saying there was a couple in the forest who would make a “good hunt”.
All three suspects deny the charges.
Rod and Rachel Saunders’ passion for the flora of South Africa saw them leave successful careers and set up their business from home.
Married couple Del Vecchio and Patel and their lodger Jackson deny kidnap, murder, robbery and theft at Durban High Court.
The trial continues.
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