Convicted murderer Diego Novella listens as sentence is handed down in the Western Cape High Court. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Guatemalan Diego Novella has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of his American marketing executive girlfriend, Gabriela Kabrins Alban. Judge Vincent Saldanha handed down the sentence at the Western Cape High Court on Thursday.

Novella and Alban came to South Africa on holiday in July 2015 and booked into a Camps Bay hotel. On July 29, the 39-year-old American marketing executive's body was found in their room by hotel staff.

Alban's face was covered in chips and faeces and a hair straightener was placed between her legs. A note left on her body had the word "cerote"  - a Spanish word meaning "piece of s***" - scrawled on it.

Alban's father Howdy Kabrins has attended the whole trial and last week gave emotional testimony about the impact his daughter's death had on him and his former wife, Gabriela's mother.

Novella had contended that he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances.