Cape Town - A toxicologist on Tuesday told the Western Cape High Court that no drugs were found in the body of slain American marketing executive Gabriela Kabrins Alban.
Jaco van Zyl, the chief forensic analyst from the department of health in Cape Town, testified that he analysed a number of biological samples retrieved from the 39-year-old's body, as well as from the crime scene.
These included samples of Alban's urine, blood, stomach contents and bile, none of which contained any "drugs of abuse", including dronabinol, which is the main compound found in dagga.
This contradicted murder accused Guatemalan Diego Novella's assertion in his plea explanation that Alban had taken dronabinol, also known as THC, with him.
Van Zyl said pharmaceutical drugs such as codeine were, however, found in some of the samples.
Alban had been taking a variety of pain medication to treat Lyme disease. She had arrived in South Africa in July 2015 to join Novella who had arranged treatment for her. He had attended a seven-day cleansing programme at a Magaliesberg spiritual retreat several weeks before the murder, where he had taken the psychoactive drug Ibogaine.
He had planned to take Alban there as he believed the treatment would help cure her illness, but she died shortly before they were due to depart for the retreat.
Her body was discovered in the room they were sharing at an upmarket boutique hotel in Camps Bay on July 29, 2015. She had been strangled and had suffered blunt force trauma. Her face was covered with chips and faeces and a note had been left on her body with the Spanish word "cerote" scrawled on it, which means piece of s***. A fingerprint expert has testified that Novella's fingerprints were found on the note.
Novella was arrested on the same day, a few hours after hotel staff found Alban's body.
He has pleaded not guilty. In his plea statement, Novella, who is from a prominent and wealthy family in Guatemala, claimed he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances.
These were listed as sceletium, dronabinol (a prescription drug) sometimes taken to treat cancer, and cannabis. “These substances had a disinhibiting effect on me, causing me to respond in an abnormal manner.”
His defence will argue diminished responsibility due to drug intoxication.
Alban's father and stepmother, Howdy and Linda Kabrins, were back in courtroom 2 on Tuesday. The two returned from America after the mid-year court recess. Alban's mother, Doris Weitz, was unable to make the trip to South Africa as she recently underwent surgery for a broken ankle.
Novella's sister was also in court on Tuesday. She made the journey from South America to see her brother, but a special request had to be made by defence lawyer William Booth to facilitate the meeting. Judge Vincent Saldanha granted the request, and the siblings will be allowed to meet during Wednesday's lunch break.