Isis WhatsApp message: British couple is 'good hunt'
Isis-accused pair appears in court as British couple remains missing
Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio and his wife, Fatima Patel, interlocked their fingers as they stood in the dock of the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
During a break, seemingly oblivious to those watching them, Patel rested her head on her husband’s shoulder, leaning into him as they exchanged secretive whispers.
The stolen embrace belied the brutal crime of which they stand accused – orchestrating the disappearance of South African-Briton’s Rod and Rachel Saunders as a “good hunt”.
Del Vecchio and his bride, as well as their teenage neighbour Themba Xulu, are accused of abducting the prominent Cape Town botanists, draining their bank accounts and stealing their car.
But as the state builds its case against the couple, loyalists of terror group Isis, the nefarious motive behind the alleged abduction of the Saunders has been brought to the fore.
An affidavit deposed by the investigating officer, which was submitted to the court on Tuesday, detailed what may have been the final days of the Saunders and provided chilling insight into what may have befallen them.According to the statement, police mined evidence of communication between Del Vecchio, Patel and a third man with the alias “Bazooka” over six days following the last sighting of the Saunders.
“On February 9 there are discussions of preparing to kill the kuffar [non-believer] and abduct their allies, to destroy infrastructure and to put fear in to the heart of the kuffar.
“On February 10, Del Vecchio had mentioned to Patel and Bazooka that there is an elderly couple in the forest, that it is a ‘good hunt’ and that they had equipment,” the papers read.
In an unrelated discussion on the same day, the officer alleges that Del Vecchio had given “guidance” that the victims of caliphate fighters should be made to disappear.“When the brothers in Kenya go out and do this work it is very important that the body of the victim is never found and that it remains a missing person case.”
When police established the Saunders had been abducted, it prompted a swoop on the secluded hilltop hideaway where Del Vecchio and Patel had lived away from prying eyes.
The Arabic inscription carved into a concrete wall of the home – Shariatu rabbina nurun – means “Shariah is the lord of our light”.
The words are the opening lines of a Jihadi nasheed to invite young followers into the caliphate.
It was in this house that police found an Isis flag flying.Further examination of electronic devices belonging to Del Vecchio and Patel revealed manuals for bomb-making.
A manual was recovered providing highly relevant detail on how to carry out a terrorist attack, including bomb-making.
Patel and Del Vecchio are alleged to have contravened the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act by hoisting the flag at their home.
Del Vecchio faces a second count for his involvement in extremist web forums. He is “connected with terrorist activities by participating in extremist web forums that support Isis and offering to supply phone numbers and sim cards that are not traceable”‚ the charge sheet read.
The disappearance of the couple, seemingly at the hands of an Isis cell, prompted the British government to issue a travel warning of possible abductions and terrorist attacks on South African soil.
As the three prepare their bids for bail, expected to be heard on March 22, the search for the missing couple continues.