Dutch ‘jihadist’ linked to murder of botanists in SA
Hawks work with Rotterdam prosecutors who claim their suspect knows two accused of kidnapping Rachel and Rod Saunders
The successful prosecution of a suspected Dutch jihadist may bolster the case against three alleged Islamic State acolytes on SA shores.
From Rotterdam to Verulam, the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State (CATS) Unit is working with Dutch authorities in what they have called an “ongoing investigation” into the kidnapping and murder of Cape Town botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders.
The elderly botanists are understood to have been murdered in February while touring KwaZulu-Natal.
Investigators identified the remains of Rodney Saunders in April and two months later, in June, used DNA to identify the body of Rachel Saunders. It is thought they had been dumped in the river by their attackers.
Sayfudeen Aslam Del Vecchio‚ 38‚ his wife Fatima Patel‚ 27‚ and Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa‚ 36‚ were arrested in the wake of their disappearance.
The three are accused of engineering the disappearance of the prominent couple whose credit cards were used to amass nearly R700,000 in loot during a shopping spree that lasted days.
Now, a 29-year-old man, only identified as “Mohammed G”, appeared briefly in the Rotterdam District Court on Monday, accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
The Dutch national news agency reported that Mohammed G, from Limburg province in the south of the Netherlands, is suspected of being involved in the fatal kidnapping in SA.Dutch prosecutors alleged Mohammed G tried to buy bitcoins using Rachel Saunders’s credit card details.
They alleged that the man knew two of the Saunders’ alleged kidnappers in SA and also worked with a Somali-based suspect.
“The four wanted to raise funds to set up a training camp in Somalia and buy weapons,” the agency reported.
Hawks spokesman Captain Lloyd Ramovha said their investigators had worked in concert with their Dutch counterparts.
“This is part of a ongoing investigation with the Dutch police and we are in an advanced stage in the courts for mutual legal assistance,” he said.
A mutual legal assistance treaty is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
Ramovha added that no other suspects were sought for the couple’s murder.
During a bail bid by Del Vecchio and Patel, the Verulam Magistrate’s Court heard startling allegations that the Britons may have been stalked as a “good hunt” to strike fear into the heart those opposed to the caliphate.An affidavit deposed by the investigating officer plotted out what may have been the Saunders’ final days‚ and gave grave 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”. The communications stretched over six days after the Saunders couple were last heard from.
“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‚” the statement continues.
Financial evidence‚ as well as communication between the co-accused‚ detail how the Saunders’ bank accounts were accessed.
The suspects are understood to have embarked on a shopping spree‚ buying drones‚ camping equipment and paintball guns from Cape Union Mart.