Now that he's admitted to killing Stephany Flores, The Daily Beast’s Barbie Latza Nadeau reports Flores’ family has sought out the parents of Natalee Holloway—the American teen who disappeared in Aruba in 2005. Thanks to interrogations of Van der Sloot, The Daily Beast has learned, there’s an intense search under way near a bird sanctuary for Holloway’s body. Plus, a private investigator who gave Van der Sloot a polygraph test tells Nadeau that “he thrived talking about Natalee.”
When 21-year-old Stephany Flores started snooping around Joran van der Sloot’s laptop computer on the morning of May 30, she found the ghost of Natalee Holloway. And that, according to Van der Sloot, is why he killed her.
The 22-year-old Dutch national confessed to Flores’ murder early Tuesday morning in a Lima, Peru, police station after what no one doubts was an intense interrogation. He told investigators how he met Flores at a poker table the night before and that she was winning big and he was on a losing streak. They played all night and then went up to his room when the tables closed, just after 5 a.m. A few hours later, he went out for coffee for both of them and when he came back, he found Flores using his computer without his permission.
If Natalee Holloway’s body is found, Van der Sloot could also be tried in absentia in Aruba.
Peruvian television networks cite a leaked police report in which he said she was looking at a file of press clips and legal documents on Holloway. When she accused him of killing the young American who disappeared in Aruba in 2005, he said he lost control. He then allegedly admitted going into a wild rage. He threw her around the tile room before bashing her head on to the wooden bed frame and then bludgeoning her to death with a tennis racket.
Flores was found wearing a dark T-shirt and her panties. A man’s bloodied T-shirt was crumpled in a ball nearby. Van der Sloot’s bloodied clothes were still in his possession when he was picked up in Chile June 4.
As vivid as it seems, those who know Van der Sloot are wary that his confession might be part fantasy. Aad Shalke, a Dutch private investigator and former homicide police officer in the Netherlands, described to The Daily Beast how he spent three days with Van der Sloot shortly after Holloway’s disappearance, trying to ascertain whether he killed her. Shalke says he administered a polygraph test that Van der Sloot failed when asked if he was involved in the murder of Holloway and the disappearance of her body.
What Shalke found was a control-hungry man who thrived on any attention he got—even from being an accused murderer. “You can read him. He thrived talking about Natalee. He loved it,” Shalke told The Daily Beast. “Joran needs to be in control, and he is capable of lying and embellishing the facts to stay in the superior position. But this is also a guy that, when he is not in control, is capable of anything.”
Shalke says he believes that Van der Sloot played poker so incessantly to feed his narcissism. Van der Sloot was not known to use drugs or abuse alcohol. Instead, Shalke says that he got “a high” when he was winning at the poker table. Having a losing night at the tables—especially if Flores was winning—might have been enough to push him over the edge. “It may not have been on purpose,” says Shalke. “But it is not impossible that he killed her just to ‘show her’ who is really in control.”
Peruvian authorities have been cooperating with investigators in Aruba since Flores’ body was discovered and it may be paying off. On Tuesday morning, investigators in Aruba were to begin an intense search near a bird sanctuary after new information emerged from Van der Sloot’s interrogations in Lima. The family of Stephany Flores has reached out to Holloway’s parents, saying they hope Van der Sloot will also admit his involvement in her disappearance.
Van der Sloot will continue intense questioning throughout this week. He has a lawyer present and the Dutch consul has also sent a representative to make sure he is treated humanely. No matter how tough the interrogations are, things will get much worse when he is transferred to Miguel Castro Castro Prison next weekend. There, he will have to pay for a cell or be forced to sleep in the corridors and common areas with the rest of the prison population. The prison was the subject of a human-rights investigation in 2006. Prisoners were tortured, raped, and left in isolation without light for extended periods of time. If Van der Sloot is charged with the murder of Flores, it could take several years for the case to go to trial. Because he confessed, he will face a maximum of only 35 years in prison for Flores’ murder. If Holloway’s body is found, he could also be tried in absentia in Aruba.
Meanwhile, Shaman healers are holding a vigil, stabbing dolls that represent Van der Sloot outside the Peruvian jail where he is being held in an attempt to get him to tell the truth. Shalke says that reports that Van der Sloot has already attempted suicide in Peru are not surprising. “He wants out now,” he says. “He is not in control anymore. He failed.“
Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.