Investigative police psychologist roped in to process graphic Camps Bay hotel murder scene

2017-09-05 15:55
Diego Novella (File, Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Diego Novella (File, Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town – The police’s investigative psychology unit was called in after officers were met with an unusual and graphic crime scene at the Camps Bay hotel where American marketing executive Gabriela Kabrins Alban was killed in 2015, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

The unit’s provincial commander, Captain Wayne Nachtmann, examined the scene in Cape Town and interviewed Diego Novella on 30 July 2015, a day after the murder.

At that stage, Novella had not yet been charged with his girlfriend’s murder and was a "detainee", Nachtmann told the prosecutor.

Nachtmann, who has been in the police for 15 years, assists with crimes that are psychologically, rather than financially, motivated.

After observing the scene at the Camps Bay Retreat Hotel that morning, he had concluded that the crime fell within his unit’s mandate.

"The reason being, that it could have been an intimate partner murder or a sexual murder or a foreign object insertion murder," he told the court.

Nachtmann explained how he had walked through the hotel room - wearing protective clothing and a face mask - to where the body lay.

"I never touched the body. I was looking at the way it was positioned and the items surrounding the body and on top of the body."

The deceased was lying on her back, partially naked from the waist down.

"It was a very graphic scene," he said.

Disturbing testimony

Judge Vincent Saldanha warned those sitting in on the trial that the testimony was of a disturbing nature and that people could leave if they wished.

The deceased’s father Howdy Kabrins, and his wife Linda, were emotional, but chose to stay.

Nachtmann said a hair straightener/curling tong was found at the genitals. There was a chocolate bar on her left thigh, and a note with the word "cerote" on her chest.

Cerote, a Spanish word, translates to "piece of excrement".

He said he could not see her face as it was covered in chips.

"I then noticed there was a brown substance around the victim’s body. I could not determine what it was, or smell, as my face was covered. The same substance was on her feet."

He then went to the kitchen area and found water, non-alcoholic drinks and receipts for dinners.

In the sitting or living room, he searched through "quite a significant number" of books, CDs and DVDs.

"This was basically about aliens, spiritual life and talking about God, about conspiracy theories. I also found a pamphlet regarding a spiritual tour offered here in Cape Town."

Trial-within-a-trial

He then left the crime scene to conduct an interview with Novella at the Camps Bay police station.

Defence lawyer William Booth had earlier objected when the witness was called, saying the interview "was no more than an interrogation, which was unfair and unconstitutional".

Saldanha granted a request by the State to hold a trial-within-a-trial, to determine whether the evidence was admissible.

"At this stage, I have to determine whether the accused was informed of his constitutional rights, and was in a sound and sober state," Saldanha told the witness.

Nachtmann’s testimony, thus, formed part of the trial-within-a-trial. 

He was not yet allowed to testify about anything Novella had told him during the interview.

Novella, who comes from a wealthy Guatemalan family, has pleaded not guilty to the crime.

He is set to argue diminished responsibility due to drug intoxication. He remains in custody at the hospital section of Pollsmoor Prison. A psychiatric evaluation by a panel at Valkenberg Hospital found he had criminal capacity and was fit to stand trial.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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