Camps Bay murder victim was in SA for spiritual healing‚ court told
A self-styled “spiritual medicine guide” who claims to have cured cancer took centre stage on Wednesday at a murder trial in the High Court in Cape Town.
Rhonda Slabbert-Barron‚ who runs a healing retreat in the Magaliesberg‚ said Diego Novella — who has pleaded not guilty to murdering his girlfriend Gabriela Alban — had attended a seven-day colon cleansing and sauna purification retreat after a drug relapse.
Excited by the treatment‚ he persuaded Alban to rearrange her busy schedule at her Los Angeles PR firm and fly 14‚000km to South Africa.
He believed Slabbert-Barron’s treatment could cure his girlfriend’s Lyme disease‚ which had left her dependent on prescription medication.
But two days before the Novella and Alban were due to travel to the healer’s home in July 2015‚ Alban was found murdered in their Camps Bay hotel room.
Slabbert-Barron told defence attorney William Booth on Wednesday that her treatments included cannabis oil‚ a psychotropic drug called Ibogaine and exorcism of demons‚ but Judge Vincent Saldanha was not impressed.
“She says she deals with the realm of the spiritual I certainly hope your defence is not based in the realm of the spiritual. It better be in the realm of science and fact‚” he told Booth.
Slabbert-Barron said Novella was “extremely concerned” about Alban’s condition and contacted the healer three times on the day of Alban’s death.
From her first encounter with Novella‚ she could tell he was a “man full of love and humility”.
“Immediately from the time I first met him‚ he spoke about Gabriela. He was concerned‚ as she was very ill and in a great deal of pain. The Lyme disease made her body very uncomfortable‚ causing severe pain and inflammation. She was living off pharmaceutical drugs‚” Slabbert-Barron said.
On the day of Alban’s murder‚ Slabbert Barron said Novella was not himself and could have “been possessed.”
“On previous occasions there would always be this excitement and laughter. This time he sounded weird‚ he sounded distant‚ and the way he spoke the words were very drawn out.”
Slabbert Barron said she and her business partner‚ Ronaldo Bigi‚ had remained in contact with Novella since his arrest‚ and he had gradually returned to “the Diego we said goodbye to at the end of his treatment”.