Howdy Kabrins, 70, has spent 130 days in the Western Cape High Court as the murder trial of his daughter’s killer unfolded, listening to every violent and horrific detail of her death.
But today it was the court’s turn to listen to him, as he testified in aggravation of sentence in the trial of convicted Guatemalan murderer Diego Novella.
Judge Vincent Saldanha encouraged Kabrins to take his time as his told the court of the devastating impact the murder of his only child, Gabriela Kabrins Alban, 39, has had on the family.
“I have been here every single day, I have not missed one day. In order to do that I had to sell all my assets, I closed my restaurant, I reached out to friends to borrow money, family and strangers helped me. There were many people who said are you devoting your life to this – and its hard to answer but I had a job to do, to get justice for Gaby,” he said.
Novella, a Guatemalan national from a wealthy and prominent family who own a cement business in South America, has been convicted of murdering Alban in the hotel room they were sharing at the Camps Bay Retreat, a luxury boutique hotel, on July 29, 2015.
Alban had been strangled and suffered blunt force trauma. Chips, sweets and faeces covered her face, a curling iron had been placed between her legs and a note with the word “cerote“, which means “piece of s***”, was placed on her chest.
Alban’s mother, Doris Weitz, left the courtroom as Kabrins detailed some of the testimony of the forensic pathologist, Dr Ithumeleng Molefe.
“Some of the pictures I saw won’t go away. Molefe was telling me and us that she was a victim of overkill, a phenomenon where there are multiple forms of death not just one, to invoke severe pain. Her face was so swollen because she was being hit while she was still alive. She wanted us to know that she was a victim of femicide.”
Novella had claimed that he had been in an abnormal mental state after having taken hallucinogenic substances, which included cannabis oil and sceletium, before the attack and that these had had a disinhibiting effect on him. But, in his June judgment Judge Saldanha rejected these claims and said Novella had the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
Kabrins said he believed his daughter had not died in vain and asked the Judge to impose the maximum sentence on Novella: “We put faith in you for all women everywhere. We ask for the maximum sentence, not just for Gaby, not just for South Africa but for all women of the world”.
The devastated father, who now suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome, and battles to sleep, struggled to hold back his emotions as he told the court of his grief.
“It hurts deeply that the only voice that the accused heard was Gaby pleading for her life. The only voice I heard was Gaby saying help me daddy, help me daddy. I hear it continuously,” he said.
He described how his wife, Linda Kabrins, Gabriela’s mother Doris Weitz, and her husband Alexander Williams, had all flown to South Africa on the same plane. Two days later they went to the morgue.
“Alex said he’d go with me. We went down a hallway, it was dark and scary, and looked through a glass partition. What I saw was Gaby, a very swollen face. Alex had his hand on my shoulder. I will never forget that moment. I walked out and saw Linda and Doris and looked at them and said its her, its Gaby, its our little girl.”
He said one journalist had aptly said his daughter had been murdered twice, first by Novella and then by the media. Initial reports suggested that a drug-fuelled orgy had led to the murder but “anyone who knows Gaby, knows this was not her lifestyle at all. There were no drugs, no cannabis in my daughter’s body”.
Kabrins said he hopes to set up a foundation for victims of abuse in his daughter’s name.
Judge Saldanha said the court had noted his commitment and courage to attend every day of the trial and informed him that in South Africa it is Women’s Month “where we take cognisance of violence against women, so your words are not lost”.
Sentencing arguments have been set down for Monday.
– African News Agency (ANA)