Diego Novella‚ on trial for the brutal murder of his American girlfriend Gabriella Alban in a Camps Bay hotel in 2015‚ has been placed on suicide watch and will be moved from a single cell to a shared cell.
The Guatemalan trust funder‚ bald‚ tattooed and in a leather jacket‚ stared ahead with empty-looking eyes as his mental health was discussed by those present.
An unsolicited comment in the morning from the accused that he had “lied in his testimony” had led to speculation that his mind wasn’t quite right since he had said nothing of the sort to his counsel‚ Advocate William Booth.
The state then called for a district surgeon to do an assessment.
After lunch‚ Louise Friester-Sampson‚ for the state‚ returned and told Judge Vincent Saldanha: “The district surgeon confirmed that he [Novella] had suffered from a panic attack. He was prescribed medication and diagnosed as a suicide risk.”
She said that in light of this‚ arrangements had been made with Pollsmoor Prison to have Novella moved from a single cell to a cell where there is “more than one person”.
Authorities at the correctional facility would also “conduct a search of his belongings and remove anything of risk”.
The staff there would be advised to “keep a close watch on him”.
She added‚ however‚ that the district surgeon had said he was capable of understanding proceedings and that he should be fit to stand trial by Tuesday morning again.
He should also “take his medication as prescribed”.
The medication referred to is an increased dose of what he was on already.
Booth‚ for the defence‚ said he had “not been able to get a psychiatrist to see the accused as yet but hoped to do so before court tomorrow”.
He said that on account of his client being a suicide risk‚ a “suicide watch” was in order‚ meaning special arrangements to keep a “constant watch” were necessary for his client.
He added: “It has been put in place in the past so I assume it will be dealt with in that way.”