I’m being tortured, whines ‘Isis’ man accused of killing elderly botanists
Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio spins court a tale of torture and seclusion at the hands of prison guards
The man at the centre of the kidnapping and gruesome murder of Cape Town-based British botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders spun a tale of torture and seclusion in the country’s most secure prison.
In a rare and fleeting moment beyond the walls of the Ebongweni maximum security prison in Kokstad, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio found his voice in the dock of the Verulam Magistrate’s Court.
“We are being tortured in Kokstad. Whatever happens to me stays there. I come back here and complain and nothing happens,” he said.
Del Vecchio, his wife Fatima Patel and their boarder Ahmad “Bazooka” Mussa face charges of kidnapping, theft and murder, as well as those relating to the contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terror and Related Activities Act.
The vanishing of the elderly botanists – understood to have been murdered in February while they toured KwaZulu-Natal – eventually led police to Del Vecchio’s own hilltop camp on the outskirts of Eshowe.
It was at this hideaway that police allege the 38-year-old planned and executed the killing of the Saunders couple.
Now held within the tight confines of Ebongweni as his case moves through the court system, Del Vecchio spouted forth details of his incarceration.
“I had fractured ribs and I was naked and beaten ... my feet were chained and I slept on a floor covered in water in winter.
“I have applied for a lawyer and for a social worker and I get nothing. I have written many letters to the head of prison and they are ignored. I have statements from other prisoners who confirm I was tortured,” he said.
“My human rights are being violated. I cannot accept what is happening here,” he boomed.
Del Vecchio was moved from the Westville Prison to the maximum security facility in the cold KZN hinterland in March after prison officials claimed they had uncovered a plot which would jeopardise the facility.
His courtroom monologue came in response to a question from magistrate Irfan Khalil, who asked him if he had understood the substance of the day’s proceedings.
Specialist prosecutor Adele Barnard had brought an application for a postponement while the state prepares a provisional indictment and secures the services of a UK-based expert witness, Dr Florence Gaub.
“I can inform the court that the investigations in this matter have been moving forward. Requests to governments of Somalia and the Netherlands under the Mutual Legal Assistance Act have been finalised and I am waiting on content from those countries,” she added.
“Depending on the content there may be further charges added,” Barnard said.
Over an above the raft of charges already levelled against them, Barnard said new evidence might see the inclusion of child pornography counts.
The forensic examination of digital devices seized from the three, she said, revealed sexually explicit images involving children.
“There was sexually explicit material involving children recovered from the devices that the state seized from the accused and we intend adding further charges in terms of the Films and Publications Act,” she said.
Del Vecchio will remain in Ebongweni. He will appear in court again on May 7.