A mentally unstable boy with a sociopathic personality disorder, and a proclivity for gambling and drugs. A treat for psychiatrists and a source of inspiration for those inclined to speculate on the true circumstances of a mysterious disappearance.
This is the impression Joran van der Sloot has created in the media ever since he became the chief suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, the US teenager who vanished while on holiday on the Caribbean island of Aruba five years ago.
Since then, his alleged involvement in the 2005 disappearance and his subsequent contradictory statements and appearances in the media have generated enormous media attention. This week, he is once again the main suspect in the killing of a young woman.
Joran van der Sloot, who was born in 1987 and grew up on Aruba as the son of Dutch expatriates, was initially suspected of killing Ms Holloway. However, he was released after three months because of a lack of evidence. He then moved to the Netherlands, by his own account to study at the Arnhem school for higher vocational education.
However, he remained at the centre of media attention, in part because of his own actions. He published a book: The Natalee Holloway Case; My Own Story about her Disappearance on Aruba. In it, he described himself as a ‘pathological liar', who already needed psychiatric help at a very young age.
In early 2008, Mr Van Der Sloot again made headlines due to sensational footage broadcast in a television show by crime reporter Peter R de Vries. In a conversation with an associate of Mr De Vries - filmed in a car by a hidden camera - Joran confessed to being involved in Natalee Holloway's disappearance. “She was drunk, Patrick, but I thought, I’ll take her with me and f… her. We did it on the beach, but she suddenly started shaking. And then, nothing.” These were the words of an apparently detached Mr Van Der Sloot.
He said he then put her body in a boat and dumped her overboard out at sea. However, he later denied everything. Although TV sleuth Mr De Vries won an Emmy Award for his 'revelation', an Aruban judge said the statements made by Mr Van Der Sloot did not provide sufficient evidence to have him re-arrested. Put under pressure by a new police investigation, Mr Van Der Sloot agreed to voluntarily check into a psychiatric clinic, but ended up travelling to Thailand.
Several psychiatrists say admission to a clinic would not have been a luxury. Justice ministry official Erik Gerretsen said: “I would really like to read a psychiatric evaluation of that boy. Because everything is a mystery. The lying, for instance. It points to Joran living in a number of different realities”.
Mr Van der Sloot reportedly suffers from a ‘sociopathic personality disorder’, which typically includes reckless and impulsive behaviour and a lack of empathy. Psychiatrist Bram Bakker says the fact that he tried to capitalise on the affair by publishing a book about it, and wanted to submit a claim for damages to the Public Prosecutors’ Office, points to ‘heartlessness’.
Trafficking in women
New revelations about Mr Van der Sloot followed in November 2008. An undercover operation allegedly showed his involvement in trafficking in women in Thailand. Video footage showed him accepting 1000 euros and later confirming the transaction by telephone.
His re-appearance in the limelight as the main suspect in the murder of young Peruvian Stephany Flores will undoubtedly shed new light on the Holloway case.