Cape Town - When the State prosecutor asked murder accused Diego Novella, “Who killed Gabriela Kabrins Alban?”, he responded: “It was my hands but not my mind.”
This dramatic scene played out in the Cape High Court this week. The Guatemalan stands accused of murdering his girlfriend at a Camps Bay hotel on July 29, 2015.
Novella has faced a gruelling cross-examination from State prosecutor Mornay Julius for the past three weeks.
Novella requested to see a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist at Pollsmoor prison, where he is being held.
He says he has not been able to receive treatment for more than three weeks.
Meanwhile, Kabrins Alban’s parents took emotional strain and left the courtroom when Novella again tried to engage them directly.
Adding to the tension in court, the interpreter became upset when she found out that she was going to be replaced. She stormed out of court. The services of a new interpreter were enlisted.
Despite all the drama in the courtroom, Novella stuck to his story that his mind had been “hijacked” and he thought he had been wrestling with a “demonic entity” on the day Kabrins Alban was killed.
The couple had been on holiday in South Africa and, according to Novella, they were seeking treatment to assist Kabrins Alban in her battle with Lyme disease, caused by a bacteria that is transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick.
Under cross-examination and in his evidence in chief, Novella told the court his altered sense of reality and subsequent amnesia had been caused by a cocktail of drugs he and the deceased took on the fatal night.
He and the deceased smoked cannabis, ingested cannabis oil and a drug called sceletium, he told the court.
He claimed the combination had made him and the deceased vulnerable to being "possessed by a demonic entity”.
Novella told the court that on the day of the murder, he left their hotel room at around 8am and he had no recollection of what happened between him and Kabrins Alban from that time up until 1pm.
“At one stage I thought it was 12.30pm,” said Novella in response to statements from several staff members at the hotel who testified that they saw him in the bar and pacing aimlessly outside on the grass. Some staff even had conversations with him.
The court heard that the couple had an argument on the morning that Kabrins Alban was killed but Novella insisted that he saw the deceased through the window of their hotel room when he walked out of the room.
Novella said he left the room because Kabrins Alban attacked him and called him an “idiot” and a “faggot”.
“The last thing I remember is seeing Gabriela as a demon,” said Novella.
His cross-examination is expected to be held next week.