Ac­cused bids for his free­dom

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - FA­TIMA SCHROEDER

CAMPS Bay mur­der ac­cused Diego Dougherty Novella is of­fer­ing R500 000, elec­tronic tag­ging, house ar­rest and con­stant su­per­vi­sion by a pri­vate in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency to se­cure his re­lease from Pollsmoor Prison.

The 43- year- old Gu­atemalan made his lat­est bid for free­dom in the Western Cape High Court this week, when he ap­pealed a Cape Town’s mag­is­trate’s re­fusal to re­lease him on bail.

Novella has been in Pollsmoor Prison since July last year, when he was ar­rested for the mur­der of his girl­friend, US mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive Gabriela Kabrins Al­ban, at a bou­tique ho­tel in Camps Bay.

In May this year mag­is­trate Grant En­gel re­fused to free him on bail, find­ing that he was a flight risk.

But the Gu­atemalan hit back this week, tak­ing the de­ci­sion on ap­peal to the Western Cape High Court.

Again his ap­pli­ca­tion was met with strong op­po­si­tion from the prose­cu­tion, which sub­mit­ted that there was a like­li­hood he would evade his trial.

It is the State’s ar­gu­ment that it is easy for Novella to flee be­cause he has Gu­atemalan and Ital­ian pass­ports, and has the fi­nan­cial means to travel any­where.

On Thurs­day de­fence at­tor­ney Wil­liam Booth sub­mit­ted that the State’s mere say-so was not enough to prove Novella was a flight risk.

He told the court the State had to sup­port its claims with ev­i­dence, such as proof that his client had a ten­dency not to com­ply with court orders, or had pre­vi­ously evaded his trial.

The fact that his client was well-trav­elled, came from a wealthy fam­ily with busi­ness in­ter­ests abroad, and had Gu­atemalan and Ital­ian pass­ports did not form a ba­sis for the claim that he was a flight risk.

On the con­trary, Booth said, there were sev­eral in­di­ca­tions he was will­ing to co-op­er­ate with the au­thor­i­ties.

These in­cluded the sup­port his fam­ily and the Gu­atemalan Con­sul had given and Novella’s will­ing­ness to be sub­jected to elec­tronic tag­ging.

He was also will­ing to be su­per­vised by The De­tec­tive Agency.

Booth pointed out that a Valken­berg Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal re­port in­di­cated that a court may con­sider a plea of di­min­ished re­spon­si­bil­ity as a re­sult of Novella’s con­di­tion at the time of his ar­rest.

The re­port said Novella had al­legedly had hal­lu­ci­na­tions the night Al­ban was killed, and that she had ap­peared to him like the an­tag­o­nist in The Ex­or­cist when he last saw her through a glass door.

Booth added that Novella should be pre­sumed in­no­cent un­til proven guilty, and that the court should not at­tach too much weight to the strength of the State’s case when con­sid­er­ing bail.

Al­ban’s body was found on July 29 last year at the ho­tel in Camps Bay where she and Novella had stayed to­gether.

Judg­ment in the bail ap­peal will be handed down on Wed­nes­day.

fa­tima.schroeder@inl.co.za

Diego Novella

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