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04th Oct 2022

Brit couple murdered and thrown to crocodiles hours after being interviewed by BBC

April Curtin

The couple were interviewed for Gardeners’ World before being kidnapped and murdered

Two British botanists were murdered by a gang in South Africa who threw their bodies to crocodiles after the couple were interviewed by the BBC, a court has been told.

Rod Saunders, 74, and his wife Rachel, 63, spent six months exploring the country’s rural areas for seed stock for their online gardening business, Silverhill Seeds.

The couple, who had travelled the world giving lectures on horticulture, left their home in Cape Town in February 2018 to start their adventure in the mountains and forests, accompanied by a BBC film crew. TV presenter Nick Bailey interviewed the pair for an episode of Gardeners’ World, which showed them on the hunt for Gladioli flower seeds in the Drakensberg Mountains.

An image on his Twitter account is thought to be the last photo taken of the couple alive.

After filming, expert horticulturist Rod and microbiologist wife Rachel set off to camp at a dam near a secluded forest. Months later, when the couple were nowhere to be seen, police ordered all unidentified and unclaimed bodies in morgues to be DNA tested.

Rod’s body was identified in one mortuary in April, while Rachel’s was identified in June.

It is believed that a gang, which included a husband and wife, beat the couple to death with a blunt instrument before putting their bodies in sleeping bags and throwing them off a bridge into the river. Days later, their decomposed bodies, which had been largely eaten by the predators, were pulled out of the water by a fisherman.

The Toyota that the couple were travelling in (Image: South African Police Service)

A message from Del Vecchio to his wife and their then lodger that day said there was an elderly couple in the forest and that it is a good “hunt” and he has the “target”.

On February 13, it became apparent the defendants had withdrawn the equivalent of £37,000 from various ATMs, and that their Land Cruiser and camping equipment had been robbed.

The trial continues.

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