Tuesday 16 October 2018

British couple kidnapped from popular tourist spot in South Africa

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South African police have launched an investigation to find a British couple kidnapped more than a week ago from a popular tourist spot in southern KwaZulu-Natal province.

The pair, who have dual British and South African nationality, live in Cape Town and were snatched on February 12 near the small town of Vryheid.

They have not been named but have been described as a 74-year-old British man who moved to South Africa in the 1970s and his 63-year-old South African-born wife.

The victims' vehicle was found on Wednesday in the city of Durban - almost 200 miles away from where they disappeared - but there was no trace of the couple.

A spokesman for the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation, known as the Hawks, refused to comment on whether a demand for a ransom has been received.

But he revealed that two suspects have been arrested - Aslam Del Vecchio, 38, and 27-year-old Fatima Patel - on charges of kidnapping as well as robbery and arson dating back to last year.

They were arrested on February 16 and had been on a wanted list after a sugar cane field in the region was torched.

Earlier this week, the Foreign Office updated its travel advice for South Africa to include news of the kidnap under the advisory's terrorism section.

But Captain Lloyd Ramovha said there was currently no suggestion that the disappearance of the couple was linked to terror.

He told the Press Association: "As far as the ongoing investigation is concerned, nothing suggests any link to terrorism at this stage.

"We say that without wanting to pre-empt what eventually we will find but at this stage nothing points to a terrorist link."

An Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are working closely with the South African authorities following the kidnap of two South African/British dual nationals and have offered consular support to the family."

"As there is an ongoing investigation we cannot comment further."

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