A couple whose decomposing bodies were found part-eaten were allegedly taken from their camping site before being fed to crocodiles, a court has heard.
British botanists Rodney Saunders, 74, and his wife Rachel, 63, were in South Africa searching for rare seeds for their business, Silverhill Seeds, when they apparently vanished in February 2018.
Prosecutors claim the pair were snatched from their tents — still in sleeping bags — before being robbed, beaten to death with a blunt instrument and thrown into a crocodile-infested river, The Independent reports.
Their bodies were found days later by fishermen. The couple were only identified by a DNA test after several months, according to reports.
Four suspects have been charged with murder, kidnap and robbery and are currently on trial at the Durban High Court in South Africa, local media reports.
Three of the suspects have reportedly denied any wrongdoing. The fourth was not involved in the alleged kidnapping and killing and has been given a suspended sentence.
The amazing Rod and Rachel Saunders of Silver Hill Seeds. These guys know their South African native plants.....and vitally where to find them. They sell an incredible range of seeds online. #silverhillseeds #SouthAfrican #nativeplants #horticulture #planthunters pic.twitter.com/n1YymULY3b
— Nick Bailey (@nickbailey365) February 8, 2018
Couple film TV show days before death
While in South Africa, shortly before going missing, the couple were interviewed for a BBC TV Series called Gardeners’ World.
Presenter Nick Bailey shared a photo of the couple on Twitter. It is believed to be the last image taken of them.
It was after this interview the couple allegedly headed off to a remote forest, Ngoye Forest Reserve, 144km miles north of Durban, where they set up camp near a dam.
They were last in contact with an employee at their workplace on February 8. Two days later, alarm was raised as they hadn't been heard from, the court heard.
Links to ISIS terrorists
After going missing, police launched a full-scale search and found money had been drained from the couple's bank account, The Sun reports.
At first, it was feared the missing couple had been kidnapped by ISIS terrorists, the court heard.
The elite Hawks organised crime unit allegedly linked the couple's phones to local suspects who had shared extremist messages.
The four suspects were arrested shortly after.
The victims' Toyota Land Cruiser was also recovered and a large amount of blood was found in the cargo area, it's been claimed.
"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 KwaZulu-Natal region," the court was told, according to The Independent.
"It is alleged that between 10 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 Saunders."
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