By Toby Sterling Associated Press
AMSTERDAM — A Dutch newspaper that interviewed Joran van der Sloot in his prison cell in Lima, Peru, said Monday he has retracted his confession to the killing of a young woman there.
De Telegraaf said the 22-year-old Dutchman, a longtime suspect in a U.S. teenager’s disappearance, claims he only signed papers admitting killing Stephany Flores because he was intimidated by police and had been promised he would be transferred to the Netherlands if he confessed.
“I was very scared and confused during the interrogations and wanted to get away,” the paper quoted him as saying. “In my blind panic, I signed everything, but didn’t even know what it said.”
Van der Sloot is the main suspect in Flores’ May 30 killing in a Lima hotel, exactly five years after the still unsolved disappearance of Alabama 17-year-old Natalee Holloway on Aruba. He met both women in casinos, and both were last seen alive in his company.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia has said Van der Sloot will have to be tried in Flores’ death before any extradition request can be considered. In addition to possible involvement in Holloway’s disappearance, for which Van der Sloot has not been charged, he is wanted by the FBI on suspicion of attempting to extort money from the Holloway family.
If convicted of killing Flores, he faces from 15 to 35 years in prison in Peru.
Prosecutors allege Van der Sloot killed Flores in his hotel room, where her body was found, with “ferocity and great cruelty.” According to a transcript of the confession, he elbowed the young woman in the nose, strangled her with both hands, threw her to the floor, took off his bloodied shirt and asphyxiated her.
The newspaper said he now says that’s not true.
“I was tricked,” the paper quoted Van der Sloot as saying of Flores’ killing. “I’ll explain later how it all happened.”
He is scheduled to be interviewed by a judge in Lima this week.
His mother Anita van der Sloot said in an interview published by the same newspaper over the weekend that Van der Sloot suffers from mental problems, “sick in his head,” as she put it. She said she doesn’t believe he had killed Holloway, but if he killed Flores “he’ll have to pay the price” and she didn’t plan to visit him in jail.