Botanists’ killing: Teenager implicated one of the accused, court told
Ahmad Jackson, Aslam Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel.
- A retired police captain told the court one of the accused in a double murder was implicated by a teenager who had the couple’s cellphones.
- The Saunders couple was killed during a work trip to KwaZulu-Natal in February 2018.
- Aslam Del Vecchio, Fatima Patel and Ahmad Jackson are on trial for the double murder.
A retired police captain testified in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban that police tracked the cellphone of one of the murdered botanists to a village in Mtunzini, where they found it in the possession of a teenager.
The teenager is now 24 years old.
The British botanists, Rodney Saunders, 73, and his wife, Rachel, 63, were murdered in February 2018 while on a work trip to northern KwaZulu-Natal.
The elderly couple – who lived in Cape Town – had dual citizenship for South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The retired captain, who worked on the case, told the court: “At the time, we were not suspecting anyone. We were just searching for the phone – and information led us to the man’s home.
“However, after finding [the man] outside his home, we realised that there was a case to charge him for.”
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The captain told the court the man implicated one of the accused, telling police that he got the two cellphones, a Huawei and Nokia 3310, from Malawian national, Ahmad Jackson.
A court order has barred the media from naming witnesses in the matter.
At the time, the man was a neighbour and casual employee of murder-accused Aslam Del Vecchio, 41.
Del Vecchio, his wife, Fatima Patel, 31, and Jackson have pleaded not guilty to killing the Saunders couple.
According to the retired policeman, the man was arrested in connection with the double murders after he admitted to having the cellphones of the deceased in his possession.
The botanists were allegedly stabbed multiple times by the accused, who then allegedly threw their bodies into the crocodile-infested Tugela River.
READ | But the police raid wasn’t legal, argues one of those accused of murdering British botanist couple
The teen, who was a Grade 9 pupil at the time of his arrest in 2018, pleaded guilty to a charge of theft and was handed a three-year sentence, with two years wholly suspended.
During his testimony earlier in May, the youngster claimed that Del Vecchio had attempted to convert him to Islam and constantly showed him videos of armed men clad in Islamic garb.
Patrick Mkhumbuzi, Jackson’s attorney, previously indicated that his client would deny that he gave the cellphones to the teenager.
The trial continues.