CAPE TOWN - The father of murdered American marketing executive Gabriela Kabrins Alban, plans to build a legacy in his daughter's name in Africa, Mexico and the United States.
The trial of Guatemalan murder accused Diego Novella spanned 110 days, and Howdy Kabrins did not miss a single one.
The devastated father marked his 70th birthday on Monday when the defence finally closed its case and Judge Vincent Saldanha postponed the matter to June 6 for final arguments.
"My birthday parallels my daughter's birthday which is one week later. As I'm thinking of my birthday, naturally I'm thinking of her. There's always been a very strong correlation of us celebrating our birthdays together. She would have turned 41", he told African News Agency (ANA).
Novella argued diminished responsibility for the 2015 murder of his then 39-year-old girlfriend Gabriela Kabrins Alban and pleaded not guilty to murder.
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 his girlfriend'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.
The lengthy trial has taken its toll on Alban's parents and their partners, Howdy and Linda Kabrins, and Doris Weitz and husband Alexander Williams, who all travelled from the United States to South Africa to attend court proceedings.
They were surprised when defence lawyer William Booth closed the case.
"Our jaws dropped as we were expecting to be there for several more days with more testifying", Kabrins said
He said they went to a special training school for aspiring chefs from Khayelitsha after court was adjourned, where he was able to celebrate his birthday and thank the people who have supported them in Cape Town: "It was amazing, these kids were singing, these young people were so happy, and there was so much energy and love in the room."
Kabrins believes his mission to get justice for his daughter will be realised and has "total confidence in the judge". He hopes Novella will spend his life behind bars, but says it won't relieve the pain of losing Gabriela.
"She was my only child, my daughter, I can still hear her voice crying for me when it happened that night. The pain will never go away. Doris (Gabriela's mother) and I, we have been given life sentences."
African News Agency/ANA