'I lied': murder accused Novella stuns court
Outburst leaves lawyer 'gobsmacked', delivers yet another blow to the family of murdered Gabriella Alban
It has been a long and hard journey for the family of Gabriella Alban, the 39-year-old executive who was in 2015 brutally murdered in a Camps Bay hotel room, where her body was found with faeces and chips on her face and a note on paper in lipstick saying “cerote” (meaning piece of shit in Spanish).
Beside her body lay a curling iron with which she had been sexually assaulted.
The man accused of the heinous crimes, her boyfriend Diego Novella, was placed on suicide watch on Monday after he arrived in court and blurted out: “I lied in my testimony”, much to the surprise of his counsel, advocate William Booth.
The balding Novella, in a leather jacket with his “good luck charm” (a badly sketched tattoo on his neck) revealed, stared down with his empty ink-black eyes while Judge Vincent Saldanha listened with incredulity to the detail-free confession of having lied under oath.Novella’s admission was met with shock from Booth, who later said it left him “completely, utterly gobsmacked”.
Saldanha told Novella to not say another word and quickly adjourned the court to allow Booth and Novella to consult.
After an adjournment, Alban's father, Howdy Kabrins, and stepmother Linda Kabrins sat silently listening to the details of Novella's mental health. This came from Louise Friester-Sampson, for the state, who reported that: “The district surgeon confirmed that he [Novella] had suffered from a panic attack. He was prescribed medication and diagnosed as a suicide risk.”
Because of this, the man who has been incarcerated in a single cell at Pollsmoor Prison will now find himself with some roommates.
Authorities at the correctional facility would also “conduct a search of his belongings and remove anything of risk”.
The staff there would be advised to “keep a close watch on him”.
Friester-Sampson added, however, that the district surgeon had declared Novella fit to stand trial by Tuesday morning because he was capable of understanding proceedings.
He should also “take his medication as prescribed”.
Booth, meanwhile, is hoping to find a psychiatrist as soon as possible so that he too can have Novella's mental state assessed.For Alban's family, this is yet another curve ball in what they describe as a harrowing “rollercoaster ride”.
Novella and Alban had only dated properly for six weeks, and she had then broken the relationship off because of his drug habits.
Through the trial, Kabrins has looked at the man in the dock, remembering how he felt the first time he was introduced to him.
He was “aggressive”, he said, adding that even Novella’s driving was full of fury and made him feel unsafe.
But, acknowledging that his “baby girl” was now an adult, he kept the criticism to himself.
Her death also came after years of her having a “debilitating disease” which had made her vulnerable to someone like Novella.
She was diagnosed with Lyme disease, a bacterial infection so debilitating that she became reliant on the love and care of others after bouts of insurmountable exhaustion drained her of her ability to function.Kabrins suspected that his daughter badly wanted to have children and that this may have clouded her judgement of the Guatemalan “trust-funder” who has never known a day’s work in his life and who, instead, had dipped into the family trust for decades to support whatever pleasures took his fancy.
When she arrived in Cape Town to meet him in 2015, she couldn’t find him and he didn’t call her.
When he finally arrived at the hotel where she was staying, he bizarrely told the reception: “I am here to see my mother."”
It is hoped that this will bring some closure to her family as the defence is expected to wrap up its closing arguments after a trial that has dragged on for more than a year.
Novella earned a reprimand from a police officer while in the dock on Monday when he received a hug from his nephew who then sat behind him during court proceedings.