Joran van der Sloot faced charges in court before Judge Carlos Morales in a closed-door session on Monday morning and has reportedly retracted his confession to the murder of Stephany Flores in Lima, Peru on May 30. Meanwhile, in Aruba, his mother has told a Dutch newspaper that her son needs psychological help and that he “may have” killed the young Peruvian woman.
Joran van der Sloot’s mother says she had booked a bed in a psychiatric hospital in Holland for her son just days before he left for Peru where he allegedly killed 21-year-old Flores. “My son is sick in the head,” Anita van der Sloot told De Telegraaf newspaper in an exclusive interview that ran in the Sunday edition. “He did not want help. He left to avoid hospitalization.”
"We made a grave mistake," she says. "He already needed psychiatric help back then."
Van der Sloot’s mother also told the Dutch paper that she would not be going to Peru to see him. And she would not speak to the American press, which she says vilified her son when he was accused of involvement in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005. She and her husband Paulus, who died of a heart attack at the age of 57 last February, were steadfast in their support when Joran was jailed in connection with Holloway’s disappearance. This time, van der Sloot’s mother is not so sure of her son’s innocence. “I will not visit him in his cell,” she said. “I cannot embrace him.”
The 22-year-old’s mother says her son is “not a monster.” Instead, she says he is “sick.” And she told De Telegraaf that she still honestly believed that Joran was not involved in Holloway’s disappearance, but conceded to the paper that she is not as sure about Flores. “I believed Joran even through his many lies,” she said about Holloway. “He left her on the beach. I still really believe that.” Flores, on the other hand, “he may have killed.”
• Barbie Latza Nadeau: Friends Ditch Van Der Sloot• Van Der Sloot’s Lawyer TroubleShe described to the paper how his psychological condition had deteriorated since his father’s death—for which she says he felt ultimately responsible. She said her son felt guilty about the stress he had put his father under, and that his heart attack was a direct result of Joran’s troubles. She described how he had a gambling addiction, and that he increasingly showed signs of mental illness. When she spoke to her son just days before Flores was murdered, he sounded “paranoid” and he told her that he was sure someone was following him. When he was on the run in Chile, she pleaded with him that he must turn himself into authorities and “bear the burden.”
Mrs. Van Der Sloot has admitted that she feels guilty for her son’s actions. She explained that she and her husband erred in sending their son to Holland after Holloway’s disappearance. He should have had psychological treatment then, she said, but her husband was worried that people would find out and it would make him appear guilty in Holloway’s disappearance. Instead, they sent him to Holland to study and later to Thailand where they helped him buy a coffee bar that he sold last year. “We made a grave mistake,” she says. “He already needed psychiatric help back then.”
Officials in Peru don’t agree. They say Van Der Sloot has undergone extensive psychological tests since his arrest June 3 near Santiago, Chile, and he is not mentally ill. He was extradited to Lima where he admitted murdering Flores, giving gruesome details including how, over breakfast, he contemplated dismembering her body to get rid of it. The details led Peruvian investigators to believe that Van Der Sloot was a venomous killer whose attempts to set up his alibi and his clear lack of remorse showed that he was cold and calculating—not a psychopath. "There was blood everywhere," Van der Sloot said, according to transcripts of the confession obtained by The Daily Beast. "What am I going to do now? I had blood on my shirt. There was also blood on the bed, so I took my shirt and put it on her face, pressing hard, until I killed Stephany."
Van der Sloot’s lawyer now says he was coerced into giving the confession. He says that the interrogation was tough — both physically and psychologically — and that he was promised that he would be returned to The Netherlands if he confessed to the crime. His lawyer will ask Judge Morales for an official retraction. In the meantime, several news organizations were given access to his cell in the infamous Miguel Castro Castro prison to see the conditions first hand. CNN and ABC report that it is a six-by-10 foot cell with a mattress on a cement frame, a hole in the floor as a toilet, and a sink. He was not in the cell at the time of the walk-through, and his lawyer says he will only grant interviews for a hefty fee. He will remain in solitary confinement away from the general population throughout the pre-trial investigation phase which could take a year or more.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek Magazine since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.