LIMA, Peru – For all of his garrulous charm, Joran van der Sloot didn’t do himself any favours in his online interactions, where his generation tends to reveal a lot about itself.
“If I would have to describe myself as an animal it would be a snake,” he wrote on his YouTube page. Perhaps wistfully wishing the past undone, he continued: “however, I want to be a lion and one day I will be a lion.”
At age 22, Van der Sloot is now a caged animal. He sits in a bleak third-world prison, where he fears his fellow inmates. After requesting isolation, he shares a cellblock with a reputed Colombian murderer-for-hire.
Van der Sloot’s journey from the quiet comfort of Aruba to being escorted briskly in handcuffs past Peruvian crowds screaming “murderer” is a tale of dissolution, deception and increasing desperation, according to friends and people who have chronicled his life.
Bracketing that journey are the May 30, 2005, disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba and, five years later to the day, the strangling death of Stephany Flores in his hotel room in Lima, Peru.
Bred in privilege on a Caribbean tourist island, a high school soccer and tennis star, the handsome, physically imposing young Dutchman has fallen about as far as a young man can fall.
But between the disappearance of Holloway, one year his senior, and the death of Flores, one year his junior, where was Joran Van Der Sloot? What journey led him from the ashes of one missing-persons case to the heart of a murder?
Who, really, is he?
The moment word got out that Van der Sloot was suspected of Flores’ murder, speculation swirled that he’d left a trail of young female victims in his travels – that he was something of a playboy killer for the globalized 21st century. He likes to travel, after all, and there were visits to Cambodia, Hong Kong, Venezuela, the United States.
Peruvian police officials called Van der Sloot a “psychopath.” A New York detective who worked for the Holloways, Bo Dietl, branded him “a homicidal maniac.”
But no evidence has emerged thus far linking Van der Sloot to any other disappearances or killings, and he certainly does not fit the profile of a deranged loner. He has had plenty of interpersonal relationships – friends, girlfriends, ardent defenders.
“Joran isn’t a monster and isn’t a serial killer,” his cousin, Natalia den Boer, told the AP. “I think that Joran needs help. Because something is bad in his head.”