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Published: Tuesday, 6/8/2010

Police: Dutchman confesses to killing Peru woman

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LIMA, Peru — Dutchman Joran Van der Sloot, long the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of a U.S. teen in Aruba, has confessed to killing a young Peruvian woman in his Lima hotel room last week, a police spokesman said.

Peru's chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, told The Associated Press that Van der Sloot admitted under police questioning Monday that he killed 21-year-old Stephany Flores on May 30.

The broadcaster America Television reported that Van der Sloot killed Flores in a rage after learning she had looked up information about his past on his laptop. It said it had access to details of the confession but did not cite its source.

Gamarra would not provide details of the confession. Nor would the chief of Peru's criminal police, Gen. Cesar Guardia, when the AP reached him by telephone. Guardia said only police director Gen. Miguel Hidalgo could authorize the information to be divulged. Hidalgo's cell phone rang unanswered.

Asked about the Van der Sloot confession, a brother of the victim, Enrique Flores, told the AP “we are not going to make any comment. This is in the hands of the police, of the justice system.”

Van der Sloot's confession came on his third full day in Peruvian police custody, on the eve of a planned trip to the hotel in which he was to participate in a reconstruction of the events leading to Flores' slaying, Gamarra said.

Flores, a business student, 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.

Police released video on Saturday from hotel security cameras that shows the two entering Van der Sloot's hotel room together at 5 a.m. Saturday and Van der Sloot leaving alone four hours later with his bags. Police say Van der Sloot left the hotel briefly at 8:10 a.m., returning to the room with two cups of coffee and bread purchased across the street at a supermarket.

Gamarra said the case would now be turned over to prosecutors to present formal charges and Van der Sloot will be assigned to a prison while he awaits trial. 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 prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway, then 18, on the Caribbean resort island of Aruba while she was 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.

A fixture on true crime shows and in tabloids after Holloway's disappearance, he 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) -tall Van der Sloot had been held at Peruvian criminal police headquarters since arriving Saturday in a police convoy from Chile, where he was captured on Thursday.

He had crossed into Chile on Monday, nearly a day after leaving the Lima hotel — five years to the day after Holloway's disappearance.

Flores' battered body was found on the floor in the room more than two days later. Lima's deputy medical investigator, Victor Tejada, told the AP on Monday that she was killed by blows with a blunt object, probably the tennis racket found in the hotel room.

Guardia told the AP her body was found face down and clothed with no indication of sexual assault.

In video taken of the Dutchman that was broadcast Sunday by a TV channel, Peruvian police were seen searching Van der Sloot's belongings in his presence. They were shown pulling out of his backpack a laptop, a business-card holder and 15 bills in foreign currency.

Chilean police who questioned Van der Sloot on Thursday said he declared himself innocent of the Lima slaying but acknowledged knowing Flores.

Van der Sloot was represented by a state-appointed lawyer during Saturday's questioning and both a Dutch Embassy official and his U.S.-based attorney told the AP on Sunday that he was seeking to hire his own counsel.

The suspect's father, a former judge and attorney on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, died in February. Van der Sloot has two brothers.

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 on May 10. He arrived in Peru four days later, his visit 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 to participate in the event.

Van der Sloot is an avid gambler and was known in Aruba to frequent its casino hotels, one of which was lodging Natalee Holloway.

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 an Aruba 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.



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