'Justice has prevailed' – father of Camps Bay murder victim
The family of Gabriela Kabrins Alban, who was murdered in Camps Bay three years ago, made sure her voice was heard during her killer's sentencing, the Western Cape High Court noted on Thursday.
Judge Vincent Saldanha sentenced Guatemalan Diego Novella to 20 years in jail on Thursday and told her parents, who were present in court, that they had displayed "much emotion and bravery" in testifying.
"Their voices represented that of the deceased in these proceedings," he said.
Her mother Doris Weitz, father Howdy Kabrins, and their partners, who had spent considerable amounts travelling between the United States and South Africa, all testified in aggravation of Novella's sentence.
Saldanha acknowledged and appreciated their presence throughout the trial.
"The court has noted it has been hard for you," he said to Kabrins.
"It is also hard for a father to sit in public and cry for his daughter."
Dressed in her favourite colour purple, the family sobbed as Novella was led back to the holding cells.
Afterwards, they expressed that they had hoped a life sentence would be imposed but accepted the 20-year sentence.
"What I can say is I am glad to see justice has prevailed," said a visibly emotional Kabrins.
Defence lawyer William Booth confirmed outside court that he had been instructed to look at applying for leave to appeal.
Novella was expected to be transferred from the hospital section of Pollsmoor Prison, but Booth said he did not yet know where his client would be sent.
The scene of the murder at the Camps Bay Retreat was gruesome, and the horrific details emerged in court previously.
Saldanha said during sentencing: "The deliberate desecration of the body of the deceased by the accused and his wanton humiliation of her abounds as a serious aggravating factor."
The court found that, while the offence at a Camps Bay hotel in July 2015 warranted more than the minimum sentence of 15 years for such an offence, a life term would not be appropriate.
Saldanha considered the three years Novella had already spent in custody, the absence of previous convictions related to violence and the element of mercy.
Novella had pleaded not guilty to her murder, saying a concoction of natural substances he had taken while on a "soul journey" and detoxification process in South Africa had caused him to behave in an abnormal manner.
But the court heard evidence during the trial that the offence was indicative of a large amount of anger and rage, which may have been fuelled by substances.
In convicting Novella, Saldanha found that the Guatemalan knew exactly what he was doing at the time.
The court thanked the prosecution and police for their hard work.
Addressing Novella, Saldanha thanked him for his co-operation.
"I wish you really well and lots of strength in the process of rehabilitation," he said.
"I hope one day you will be able to leave the confines of incarceration and lead a productive life."
The prosecution team, Advocates Louise Friester-Sampson and Mornay Julius, said the case illustrated the often fatal consequences that many women around the world, and especially local women, suffered at the hands of their abusive intimate partner.
"We are mindful that all families affected by this type of offence, including the family of the deceased place their trust in the NPA to tirelessly prosecute offenders in the scourge that is femicide," they said.
"We are hopeful that today’s sentence will bring a measure of comfort to the family."