British couple brutally beaten and fed to crocodiles just days after BBC ‘Gardeners’ World’ interview

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Oct 5, 2022 at 01:00 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders were brutally beaten and thrown into crocodile-infested waters just days after they appeared on BBC’s Gardeners’ World.

According to LADbible, the married couple used to spend six months every year in South Africa searching wild mountains for rare seeds to sell through their online business, Silverhill Seeds. In pursuit of exotic gladioli seeds, the couple found themselves in Drakensberg—an impressive geological feature which is world-renowned for its scenery and extensive hiking trails.

In 2018, the year of their murder, the Saunders—while on their annual pilgrimage to South Africa—were accompanied by a BBC film crew. The pair was interviewed for the popular British TV show Gardeners’ World, where they were asked to talk about their seed company and horticultural search.

On 8 February of the same year, presenter Nick Bailey took a (now-harrowing) selfie smiling with the couple following their interview. This was the last recorded image of the Saunders when they were alive.

After parting ways with the BBC film crew, the couple continued their voyage and sought out a camp in a nearby remote forest within the Kwa-Zulu Natal province.

In a devastating turn of events, only a few days later, local fishermen found and recovered two disfigured bodies in a nearby river. The couple had been brutally beaten, zipped into their sleeping bags and thrown into crocodile-infested waters. Their bodies were only identified after police hadn’t found any traces of them and ordered all unidentified bodies in morgues to be tested for DNA.

As reported by The Telegraph, four years since the death of the British couple, three suspects are now finally on trial at the Durban High Court—accused of kidnapping, robbery, and murder. Sayefundeen Aslam Del Vecchio, 39, his wife Bibi Fatima Patel, 28, and their lodger at the time, Mussa Ahmad Jackson, 35, have all denied charges.

The High Court reported: “Around 10 February the investigating officer received information that Rodney Saunders and his wife Dr Rachel Saunders from Cape Town had been kidnapped in the Kwa-Zulu Natal region.”

“It was established on 13 February that the defendants were drawing money from various ATMs which amounted to theft of R734,000 (£37,000) and there was the robbery of their Land Cruiser and of camping equipment.”

The Court continued, “It is alleged that, between 10 February and 15 February at the Ngoye Forest, the accused did unlawfully and intentionally kill Rachel Saunders and between the same dates did unlawfully and intentionally kill Rodney Sanders.”

One particularly shocking piece of evidence uncovered during the criminal trial was a series of text messages sent by Del Vecchio to his wife and lodger on 10 February 2018. The texts mention an elderly pair in the forest, followed by the chilling words “good hunt” and “target.”

When the murders were first reported, The Guardian stated that the police had claimed the couple were kidnapped and murdered by Islamic extremists who talked about killing non-believers. Lawyers for the accused, however, have since told news sources that the police greatly exaggerated the links to the Islamic state.

Many other publications have speculated over the true reason as to why the pair faced such a horrific demise. Nevertheless, as the trial continues, we can expect to hear many more harrowing accounts, detailing how the Saunders couple died, and indeed, why.

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