Dutchman to do crime scene walk-through in Peru
LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peruvian police plan to take Joran van der Sloot, who they say has confessed to last week’s killing of a 21-year-old business student in his Lima hotel room, to visit the crime scene, officials said Tuesday.
They also said police have until the weekend to file criminal charges against the Dutchman in the May 30 killing of Stephany Flores.
The beating death occurred exactly five years after U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba — an assumed death in which Van der Sloot has long been considered the prime suspect by authorities on the Dutch Caribbean island.
It wasn’t clear if Van der Sloot has obtained private counsel, and there was no immediate word from either him or his family about the reported confession.
Peru’s chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, told The Associated Press late Monday that Van der Sloot confessed earlier in the day.
Several Peruvian media outlets reported, without identifying their sources, that he admitted to killing Flores in a rage after learning she looked up information about his past on his laptop without permission.
The newspaper La Republica said Van der Sloot tearfully confessed, in the presence of a prosecutor and a state-appointed attorney, to grabbing Flores by the neck and hitting her because she had viewed images about the Aruba case on his computer while he was out buying coffee.
Neither Gamarra, senior police officials nor prosecutors would provide details of the alleged confession, which came on Van der Sloot’s third full day in Peruvian custody at criminal police headquarters.
Meanwhile, the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant quoted the suspect’s lawyer in the Netherlands as suggesting the confession may have been coerced.
“Joran told his mother crying Monday that he was being interrogated under reasonably barbaric conditions,” the paper quoted Bert De Rooij saying. “He said the police were trying to force him to confess.”
Under such conditions, he said, the “confession was possibly false.”
The state-appointed lawyer who represented Van der Sloot in initial interrogations, Carla Odria, told the AP that a different lawyer, who she said was hired by the suspect, was with Van der Sloot on Monday. She said she did not know the lawyer’s name. Authorities would not release the name of the lawyer.
Officials at the Dutch Embassy, who said the suspect’s family was attempting to obtain private counsel for Van der Sloot, could not be reached for comment Tuesday on whether a private lawyer had in fact been retained.
Van der Sloot’s mother, who apparently lives in Aruba, also could not be located for comment. The suspect’s father, a former judge and attorney on Aruba, died in February.
Flores, the daughter of a Peruvian circus empresario and former race car driver, was found beaten to death, her neck broken, in the 22-year-old Dutchman’s hotel room. Police said the two met playing poker at a casino.
The chief of Peru’s criminal police, Gen. Cesar Guardia, said the crime scene visit at the TAC hotel would most likely occur Wednesday. A psychological exam of the suspect is also required before a judge can decide whether he should stand trial.
Asked about the alleged confession, a brother of the victim, Enrique Flores, had no comment. “What we as a family want to do now is rest a bit and let this follow the judicial path,” he said.
Video from hotel security cameras shows the two entering Van der Sloot’s room together at 5 a.m. Sunday and Van der Sloot leaving alone four hours later with his bags. Police say Van der Sloot also left the hotel briefly at 8:10 a.m. and returned with two cups of coffee and bread purchased across the street at a supermarket.
Murder convictions carry a maximum of 35 years in prison in Peru, and it was not immediately clear if a confession could lead to a reduced sentence.
Van der Sloot remains the key suspect in Aruba for the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from Alabama who was on the resort island celebrating her high school graduation. He was arrested twice in the case — and gave a number of conflicting confessions, some in TV interviews — but was freed for lack of evidence.
Holloway’s father, Dave, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that Van der Sloot should tell all he knows about the disappearance of his daughter. “Hopefully this is his last victim.”
The girl’s mother, Beth Holloway, said her heart and prayers were with the Flores family.
A fixture on true crime shows and in tabloids after Holloway’s disappearance, Van der Sloot gained a reputation for lying — even admitting a penchant for it — and also exhibited a volatile temper. In one Dutch television interview he threw a glass of wine in a reporter’s eyes. In another, he smashed a glass of water against a wall in a fury.
The 6-foot-3 (191-centimeter) Van der Sloot has been held at Peru’s criminal police headquarters since arriving Saturday in a police convoy from Chile, where he was captured Thursday.
He had crossed into Chile on Monday — roughly a day after leaving the Lima hotel.
Lima’s deputy medical investigator, Victor Tejada, told the AP that Flores was killed by blows with a blunt object, probably a tennis racket found in the hotel room. Guardia said her body was found face down and clothed with no indication of sexual assault.
Chilean police who questioned Van der Sloot the day of his arrest said he declared himself innocent of the Lima slaying but acknowledged knowing Flores.
There were indications Van der Sloot may have been traveling on money gained through extortion. The day of his arrest in Chile, Van der Sloot was charged in the United States with trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s family in exchange for disclosing the location of her body and describing how she died.
U.S. prosecutors say $15,000 was transferred to a Dutch bank account in his name May 10. He arrived in Peru four days later, coinciding with the runup to a June 2-5 Latin America Poker Tour tournament with a $930,000 prize pool.
Tournament organizers said Van der Sloot did not sign up for the event, which required a $2,700 entrance fee.
Van der Sloot is an avid gambler and was known to frequent Aruba’s casino hotels, one of which was where Holloway stayed.
In a lengthy 2006 interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News, Van der Sloot described drinking shots of rum with Holloway, whom he said he met while playing poker at a casino, then taking her to a beach and leaving her there around 3:30 a.m.
Two years later, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of Van der Sloot saying that after Holloway, drunk, collapsed on the beach while the two were kissing, he asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.
“I would never murder a girl,” he said.
That interview prompted authorities in Aruba to reopen the case, but Van der Sloot later said he made up the whole story and he was not charged.
The crime reporter, Peter de Vries — the victim of the wine-throwing incident — reported later in 2008 that Van der Sloot was recruiting Thai women in Bangkok for sex work in the Netherlands.
Associated Press writers Carla Salazar in Lima, Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia, and Arthur Max in Amsterdam contributed to this report.