No commonly abused drugs found in murdered American’s body, court hears

2017-08-29 20:36
Guatemalan murder accused Diego Novella speaks with his lawyer William Booth during his court appearance at Western Cape High Court on May 18, 2017 in Cape Town. (File, Gallo Images)

Guatemalan murder accused Diego Novella speaks with his lawyer William Booth during his court appearance at Western Cape High Court on May 18, 2017 in Cape Town. (File, Gallo Images)

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Cape Town - Forensic toxicology tests did not detect any commonly abused drugs in the body of murdered marketing executive Gabriela Kabrins Alban, the Western Cape High Court heard on Tuesday.

Jaco van Zyl, who was the chief forensic analyst at the national health department office in Woodstock, Cape Town, had been tasked with testing various samples received after her murder in July 2015.

These samples were from her body and the scene.

Testifying for the State on Tuesday, he said that the sealed samples he received included her stomach contents, urine, bile, eye fluid and blood.

“I screened for drugs of abuse, pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, herbal compounds, and poisons,” he explained. 

“I needed to help the pathologist find the cause of death. And I needed to know the levels of compounds.”

He did not find any so-called "drugs of abuse". 

Van Zyl said there was no trace of dronabinol (THC), which was the main compound of dagga and which was used for medical treatment.

He did find various pharmaceutical drugs in the samples, including codeine (painkiller) and cyclobenzaprine (muscle relaxant). 

Kabrins Alban had suffered from Lyme Disease.

Contradict Novella’s claim

Defence lawyer William Booth previously put it to her mother Doris that Novella had been concerned about the pain the marketing executive was in and had arranged for her to come to South Africa to receive treatment for the disease.

Van Zyl’s testimony on Tuesday seemed to contradict Novella’s claim in his plea explanation that he and Kabrins Alban had taken dronabinol together.

Novella, who comes from a wealthy Guatemalan family, stands accused of killing Kabrins Alban, 39, at the Camps Bay Retreat Hotel in July 2015.

He pleaded not guilty and was set to argue diminished responsibility due to drug intoxication.

He remained in custody at the hospital section of Pollsmoor prison. Psychiatric evaluation by a panel at Valkenberg hospital found he had criminal capacity and was fit to stand trial.

Earlier on Tuesday, a police forensic expert described how a note was found on her chest with the word ‘cerote’ written in lipstick.

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

Chips, sweets and faeces

The court heard that chips, sweets and faeces were found on the deceased's body. Chips and sweets packets were also scattered around the room.

Booth said he was instructed that a glass object in one of the crime scene photos was a water pipe used to smoke cannabis.

No fingerprints were found on the item, Rushton confirmed. He said this did not mean that no one had touched the item.

"Would you agree that this is a bizarre crime scene?" Booth asked him.

Rushton agreed the scene was a “bit unusual” because of the items found on her body.

Novella’s sister had flown from South America to be in court on Tuesday. Judge Vincent Saldanha granted a request for the siblings to see each other during the lunch break on Wednesday.

The trial resumes on Wednesday.

Read more on:    gabriela kabrins alban  |  diego novella  |  cape town  |  crime

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