The Western Cape High Court heard sentencing arguments in the trial of Diego Novella on Monday File photo:Cindy Waxa /AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY /ANA

CAPE TOWN - The defence in the trial of Guatemalan national Diego Dougherty Novella has asked the Western Cape High Court to consider "diminished responsiblility" due to drug intoxication when it sentences the convicted murderer later this week.

Defence lawyer William Booth said he accepted the circumstances of the crime and the "manner of death" were of a serious nature, but argued that should not be the overriding factor.

Novella, a Guatemalan national from a wealthy and prominent family who own a cement business in South America, has been convicted of murdering Gabriela Kabrins Alban, 39, in the hotel room they were sharing at the Camps Bay Retreat, a luxury boutique hotel, on July 29, 2015.

Alban had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma. Chips, sweets and faeces covered her face, a curling iron had been placed between her legs and a note with the word “cerote“, which means “piece of s***” in Spanish, was placed on her chest.

Booth told the court on Monday that the likelihood of his client committing a crime of this nature again was non-existent and said the accused had "certain psychological problems". 

Novella had claimed that he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances, which included cannabis oil and sceletium before the attack and that these had had a disinhibiting effect on him. But, in his June judgment, Judge Vincent Saldanha rejected these claims and said Novella had the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

On Monday, Judge Saldanha pointed out that Novella had previously used cannabis and cannabis oil, but on the day of the murder he used it in combination with sceletium. "He displaces responsibility to demons and substance abuse. He should have asked can I use sceletium with cannabis? That is reckless on his part because he doesn't know the impact of what could happen."

He told Booth that the defence's own expert, clinical psychologist Dr Giada Del Fabbro, had conceded that the incident could have happened even without the drugs because of the accused's "high level of anger".

"The court has to decide if it's an aggravating factor, to the extent that the drugs fuelled his anger." 

African News Agency (ANA)