Cape Town botanists Rodney and Rachel Saunders. Picture: Supplied

DURBAN - THE missing body of Cape Town botanist Rachel Saunders has finally been found after a four month search. 

Internationally renowned botanists Rachel Saunders, 63, and her husband Rod, 73, went missing on February 12, in the Bivane Dam area near Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal. 

The husband's body was found in the crocodile infested Tugela River in April.

Hawks spokesperson, Captain Lloyd Ramovha, said Rachel's body had been positively identified.

Four days later, following an alert that two suspects on a terror watch list had gone on a spending spree with the couple’s credit cards, police swooped on a Ngoye homestead near Mtunzini.

Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 38, and Fatima Patel, 27 were arrested there. Two other suspects, Themba Xulu and Jackson Ahmed Mussa were also arrested.

“A multi-pronged investigation last week led to the positive identification of the mortal remains of Rachel Saunders. Rodney’s body was identified in April this year after investigations led to the arrest of four suspects,” said Hawks spokesperson Captain Lloyd Ramovha.

Ramovha said DNA results had positively identified the body after an extensive search was done at mortuaries around the province to test for a match. He said the Hawks were still unaware where the body had been found.  

Meanwhile, Ramovha said Xulu subsequently entered into a plea bargain with the state.

He was convicted and sentenced on May 25 to three years imprisonment, suspended for five years for illegal possession of stolen property which was the victims’ cell phones.                                                                                               

The other three accused remain in custody and are expected to appear at the Verulam Magistrate’s Court in August. 

They face a raft of charges including; kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances two counts of murder, possession of stolen property.

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SUNDAY TRIBUNE