Lawyers for Fatima Patel and Sayfyden Aslam Del Vecchio during a break in court proceedings at the Verulam Magistrate's Court. Picture: BONGANI MBATHA/(ANA) AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY
Durban - Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio and Fatima Patel, the couple accused of abducting British botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders, are set to make their bail application later this month. The accused, appeared alongside Themba Xulu and Ahmad Jackson Mussa in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.

The botanists went missing in February. At the time, a warning was issued by the UK government of a possible terrorist threat from extremists linked to Islamic State.

The matter was then handed over to the Hawks for further investigation. According to Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha, the British couple had dual UK and South African citizenship but lived in South Africa.

Arrests were made weeks after the couple were reported missing.

Ramovha said police had been hunting Del Vecchio, 38, and Patel, 27, on arson charges after  they had allegedly set fire to a Huletts sugar cane field in the province last year. He said police finally nabbed them and they were subsequently linked to the elderly couple’s disappearance.

Patel and her brother, Ebrahim, were arrested during the same 2016 Gauteng raids that saw terror-accused twins Brendon-Lee and Tony-Lee Thulsie nabbed.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that the body of a man that washed up on the banks of the Tugela River in late February may be that of Saunders. It is believed police are waiting for DNA results to confirm the identity. 

The Mercury