Accused bids for his freedom
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.