CAPE TOWN, June 12 – The trial of Guatemalan murder accused Diego Novella has again been stalled as a private psychiatrist will only be able to assess him on Wednesday.
The defence’s final arguments were due to be delivered on Monday, but instead, Novella told the court that he had lied when he gave his testimony.
The shocking revelation rendered his defence lawyer “gobsmacked” and “completely and utterly taken aback” and left the State scrambling to have him assessed by a district surgeon as speedily as possible.
After his assessment, the court was told on Monday afternoon that he had had a panic attack and would need to be placed on suicide watch at Pollsmoor prison. The district surgeon was of the opinion, however, that he was able to understand court proceedings.
As a result of the suicide risk, he was switched from a single cell to a cell with eleven other people.
Novella is on trial for the murder of his 39-year-old girlfriend Gabriela Kabrins Alban in 2015. Alban, who was suffering from Lymes disease, had joined him in Cape Town to seek medical treatment for her painful condition.
Alban’s body was discovered in the room she was sharing with Novella at an upmarket boutique hotel in Camps Bay on July 29, 2015. She had been strangled and had suffered blunt force trauma.
Novella was arrested the same day, a few hours after hotel staff found Alban’s body.
He has pleaded not guilty.
In his plea statement, Novella, who lived off his wealthy family’s trust fund and has never been employed, claimed he had been in an abnormal mental state after he took hallucinogenic substances.
His defence has argued that as a result of his psychotic-like state he had diminished criminal capacity.
On Tuesday, Booth told the court that the distressed mental state his client displayed on Monday had not improved, despite the district surgeon increasing the dosage of his medication.
“I am not sure what he meant by what he said yesterday, and it is an aspect that needs sorting out. From a legal aspect, I may have to take that under advisement. That all depends on what comes out after a full and proper consultation.”
Novella will also be seen by a doctor at Pollsmoor prison on Thursday.
Judge Vincent Saldanha postponed the case to June 18.
– African News Agency (ANA)