Cape Town - A police officer who interviewed Guatemalan murder accused Diego Novella on the day of his arrest, told the Western Cape High Court on Monday that in 30 years of service he had never seen a crime scene like the one in Room 14 of a Camps Bay boutique hotel where Gabriela Kabrins Alban was found dead.
Novella has pleaded not guilty to the 2015 murder of his 39-year-old American marketing executive girlfriend and instead will argue diminished responsibility due to drug intoxication.
In his plea statement, he said he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances.
These were listed as sceletium, dronabinol (a prescription drug) and cannabis. "These substances had a disinhibiting effect on me, causing me to respond in an abnormal manner.”
Novella was arrested on July 29, 2015, after Alban's body was discovered in the hotel room they were sharing at the luxurious Camps Bay Retreat Boutique Hotel.
Her body was found by hotel staff in the afternoon. Novella was not there, but was arrested later that day. He was sent for psychiatric evaluation at Valkenberg Hospital where a panel found he had diminished responsibility from drug intoxication.
He was, however, found to have criminal capacity and was deemed fit to stand trial.
The trial resumed on Monday after a two-week adjournment because defence lawyer William Booth had had a medical emergency.
Warrant Officer Stephen Fourie, the head of detectives at the Camps Bay police station, told the court that he interviewed Novella on July 29, as well as the following day - both times he informed him of his rights.
Defence lawyer William Booth said another officer had also interviewed him and again read him his rights. "Maybe it was that the accused's demeanour was strange, and he was acting strangely and that is why he was read his rights several times."
State prosecutor Mornay Julius objected, calling the assertion "speculation".
Booth told the court that his client claimed he was interrogated in a metal container and was threatened with a phone wire.
Fourie said he had no knowledge of the threat, but conceded interviews were sometimes conducted in a metal container.
It was widely reported that cocaine had been found in the room, but Booth told the court that, in fact, none had been found.
Booth described the crime scene and the body "how she was covered" as "bizarre".
Alban's face was covered in chips, as well as faeces, a curling iron beside her. A note had been left on her body with the word "cerote" scrawled on it - a Spanish word meaning "piece of s***".
Alban's father and stepmother, Howdy and Linda Kabrins, have returned to Cape Town from America after the mid year recess. Kabrins has vowed to be at the trial so that he can see that justice is done for his daughter. But, he said the postponements had been frustrating: "Its been a lesson in patience."
Alban's mother Doris Weitz has been unable to return to South Africa after undergoing surgery for a broken ankle.