Tragic 'last' pic of botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders before they were killed and fed to crocodiles
DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA: A tragic photo of a British South African couple has surfaced online after they were kidnapped from their campsite, murdered and then later fed to crocodiles during their work trip in South Africa.
World famous horticulturists Rodney Saunders and his wife Rachel Saunders were hiking in the hills as they sought the rare Gladioli seeds in the Drakensberg Mountain region. The couple was interviewed by BBC presenter Nick Bailey for an episode of 'Gardener's World' in 2018. While shooting the segment, Nick Bailey took a selfie with the couple and posted it on his Twitter feed. Another picture of the Saunders couple by the producer Robin Matthews was also circulated during the time of filming. The 'all smiles' selfie of the couple has now tragically become the last photo taken of the couple before they were robbed and beaten to death.
The amazing Rod and Rachel Saunders of Silver Hill Seeds. These guys know their South African native plants.....and vitally where to find them. They sell an incredible range of seeds online. #silverhillseeds #SouthAfrican #nativeplants #horticulture #planthunters pic.twitter.com/n1YymULY3b— Nick Bailey (@nickbailey365) February 8, 2018
The couple was last heard from alive on February 8, 2018 when they decided to camp near the Ngoye Forest in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. As per the prosecutors, the couple was kidnapped from their tents, robbed, and murdered before being thrown into the crocodile-infested Tulega river. Their half-eaten bodies were found a few days later by fishermen. The bodies had decomposed and were deformed to such an extent that it took DNA tests to identify them.
Robert Saunders and Rachel had spent six months on their search for rare South African seeds before their savage murder. As the reports suggest, the elderly couple was allegedly heading towards the Ngoye Forest Reserve 90 miles north of Durban on February 8, 2018, but there was no further contact from them after that date. Two days later, an alarm was raised and a search was organized.
Justice seems to be on the horizon after four accused went on trial at the Durban High Court. Sayefundeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 39, his wife Bibi Fatima Patel, 28, and their lodger at the time, Mussa Ahmad Jackson, 35, all denied any wrongdoing, including murder, robbery, and theft. The fourth suspect who was found to have bought the mobile phones that belonged to the Saunders was released with a suspended sentence.
However, Del Vecchio and Patel are prime suspects as they stated that there was a nearby couple to "target" and to "hunt," in text messages. There also appears to be an ISIS link behind the seemingly random murders. Thus, the trial is still in process. "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," the court was told.