Dutch man sent to Peru to face murder charges

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Chilean police flew a young Dutch murder suspect to Peru on Friday to face charges in the slaying of a 21-year-old woman in his hotel room.

Joran van der Sloot said he is innocent but acknowledged having met Stephany Flores at a Lima casino, said deputy Chilean investigative police spokesman Fernando Ovalle.

Van der Sloot was to be handed over to Peruvian police at the border of the two countries Friday afternoon. He also remains the prime suspect in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. Flores was killed five years to the day after Holloway disappeared. On Thursday, prosecutors in the U.S.. charged van der Sloot with extortion in connection with the Holloway case.

Wearing the same black-hooded sweat shirt and khaki pants in which he was arrested the day before, van der Sloot was handcuffed and placed aboard a police Cessna 310 in the Chilean capital, Santiago, on Friday morning. A fixture on television crime shows after Holloway’s disappearance in Aruba, the 22-year-old did not speak to or look at reporters who called to him Friday as he was escorted onto the plane.

Van der Sloot, who was seen on video with Flores prior to her death, fled Peru on Monday, but was captured three days later by Chilean police as he was headed in a taxi from Santiago to the Pacific coastal city of Vina del Mar. Police said he had rented a room there.

Flores was found dead late Tuesday in the Lima hotel room where van der Sloot had been staying before he left the country. She had a broken neck. She was fully clothed, with multiple bruises and scratches on her body, but there were no signs she had been sexually assaulted, the chief of Peru’s criminal police, Gen. Cesar Guardia, told The Associated Press.

“The room was a complete mess,” he said in an interview. He added that no potential murder weapon was found.

Peruvian police say they have video of van der Sloot and Flores together in the casino and witnesses who saw the two enter the Dutchman’s hotel room.

“This isn’t a coincidence, this murder,” Flores’ father, Lima entertainment impresario Ricardo Flores, told reporters after van der Sloot’s arrest Thursday.

Flores, a 48-year-old former race car driver and sometime politician, buried his daughter Thursday in the upscale Jardines de la Paz cemetery accompanied by about 100 mourners. He called on authorities to immediately bring van der Sloot to Peru to face justice.

“It’s not just about my daughter,” he said. “There’s a matter pending in Aruba, and we don’t know how many more remain unpunished.”

Also Thursday, van der Sloot was charged in Alabama with trying to extort $250,000 in return for revealing the location of Holloway’s body and describing the circumstances of her death.

Federal prosecutors did not say who was allegedly extorted, but filed a sworn statement saying that van der Sloot received a partial payment of $15,000 wired to a Netherlands bank.

In the Netherlands, Dutch prosecutors on Friday said they had raided two homes hunting for evidence linked to the extortion charges. They seized computers, cell phones and data-storage devices in the raid, which was carried out at the request of U.S. authorities, said national prosecutor’s office spokesman Wim de Bruin.

Holloway was an 18-year-old who was celebrating her high school graduation on Aruba when she disappeared May 30, 2005. Van der Sloot told investigators he left her on a beach, drunk. That’s the last anyone saw of her.

Van der Sloot was twice arrested in her disappearance — and twice released for insufficient evidence.

“If they have enough proof that he committed the crime in Peru, maybe, just maybe, that might help to get him to confess in Natalee’s case. It just might crack him,” a Holloway family lawyer, Vinda de Souza, told the AP.

A spokeswoman for Holloway’s mother, Beth, issued a statement saying she “extends her deepest sympathy” to the Flores family “and prays for swift and sure justice.”

On May 14, Van der Sloot arrived in Peru on a flight from Colombia and checked into the room where Flores’ body was later found, Gen. Guardia said. Van der Sloot was in Peru for a poker tournament and it appears he and Flores met Saturday evening at Atlantic City, the Lima casino hosting the tourney, Guardia said.

The police chief said Flores was killed between 5 a.m. Sunday, when the victim and suspect were seen entering his room by a hotel employee, and about 8:45 a.m., when two people saw van der Sloot leave.

“Various things aren’t very clear,” Guardia said, among them the killer’s motive.

It certainly wasn’t money, he said. Van der Sloot had no problem paying for his travel to Chile.

Truck driver Luis Aparcana said van der Sloot gave him 1,500 Peruvian soles ($525) to take him from Ica, a town south of Lima, to the Chilean border. The Dutchman didn’t speak Spanish very well and carried two suitcases, Aparcana said in a TV interview.

Aparcana said van der Sloot appeared “worried, because he kept smoking cigarettes.”

“He didn’t have a cell phone but he had a laptop that he would take out, handle and then put back.”

Lawyers for van der Sloot did not immediately comment.

The Holloway case has followed many twists and turns. Two years ago, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying he was with Holloway when she collapsed on a beach from being drunk. He said he believed she was dead and asked a friend to dump her body in the sea. Judges subsequently refused to arrest van der Sloot on the basis of the tape.

The journalist, Peter de Vries, reported later in 2008 that he had documented van der Sloot recruiting Thai women in Bangkok for sex work in the Netherlands.