Image: Joran van der Sloot
Margarete Wever  /  AP FILE
Joran van der Sloot is a prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
By Clint Van Zandt
msnbc.com
updated 2/6/2008 6:05:43 PM ET 2008-02-06T23:05:43
COMMENTARY

Most will recall that Joran Van der Sloot was one of three young men Natalee Holloway was accompanied by when she left a local Aruban bar after a night of partying in May 2005. Holloway was never seen again. Van der Sloot and his two friends, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, were seen driving away with Natalee. All three men would later tell various stories of where they went and what level of contact they had with Natalee that night, some of which were proven to be either outright lies or statements that could not be confirmed by independent investigation.

Many believe that Holloway was either murdered or somehow died while with the three suspects, perhaps from some type of alcohol or drug overdose (i.e. from GHB, the date rape drug), the latter of which could have been secretly slipped in her glass after an afternoon and evening of intentional drinking on her part. Gerold Dompig, the Aruban police investigator that formerly ran this case, once indicated his belief that a long day of drinking at Carlos ’n’ Charlie’s could have contributed to Holloway’s death, with the three main suspects indicating, in at least one version of their various conflicting accounts of their actions that night, that they eventually left Holloway alone on the beach near her hotel, and they had no idea of what might have happened to her after they left her on the sand.

In a recent Dutch TV show, Van der Sloot was interviewed by a local crime reporter and former police officer, Peter deVries, who challenged Van der Sloot’s version of what happened to Natalee that fateful night. At the end of the interview Van der Sloot threw a glass of wine into deVries’ face, behavior that would serve to exemplify his inability to control his temper as well as his lack of impulse control: traits, some would suggest, that could also allow him to take action against another person he was angry or upset with. Someone, perhaps, like Natalee Holloway.

'No confession'
Reporter deVries soon announced that through the use of hidden surveillance cameras, he had solved the mystery surrounding Holloway’s disappearance, and in a Dutch TV special this past Sunday he provided the video in support of his claim. Evidently deVries was able to get someone close to Van der Sloot, someone who gained the suspected killer’s trust, someone Van der Sloot’s U.S. attorney would now attempt to discredit by suggesting that the undercover operative had given Van der Sloot “drugs, marijuana, things like that.” Unbelievable that this same attorney, after viewing the hidden tape of his client’s statement concerning Holloway, characterized his client’s statements as “no confession and no admission of a crime” by his client.

The now public videotape, the result of three different hidden cameras in a moving vehicle, shows Van der Sloot telling his “friend” that Holloway was drunk on the beach with him, apparently after they left the local bar, and that while kissing, etc., she began shaking and then slumped over without speaking. The Dutch teenager then says that he panicked and tried to reviver her, but as she looked dead. “Could she have been in a coma?” asked the friend. “Perhaps,” Van der Sloot appears to have suggested. He then allegedly used a nearby pay phone to call an unidentified friend to help him dispose of Holloway’s body that night. 

Van der Sloot’s unnamed friend then allegedly placed Holloway’s limp body in a boat which was used to take her out into the nearby ocean, where he allegedly pushed her body into the darkened waters and “dumped her overboard like an old rag.”  Van der Sloot, when confronted with his tape recorded confession, now says he was lying and simply telling his friend what he believed the friend wanted to hear. The Dutch teenager’s American attorney points out what he says are differences and inconsistencies in his client’s story, differences he says proves that his client was lying at the time.

Most who have followed this case will agree with Van der Sloot’s lawyer: His client is a liar.  The only question is which of the many lies that Van der Sloot and the two other suspects have apparently told are true lies, and which represent the real truth.

Bringing new life to the case
Faced with this new “evidence,” the Aruban prosecutor, someone who just one month ago stated he was dropping his investigation concerning the three suspects as he had no further evidence with which to charge them, now has reopened the investigation, although a local judge indicated Van der Sloot’s recorded statements concerning his involvement in Holloway’s disappearance was “too feeble to merit the rearrest and pretrial detention of Van der Sloot.” 

This investigation has been a constant rollercoaster with Van der Sloot, the two Kalpoes and a number of others arrested and released a number of times, usually accompanied by the promise of important investigative breakthroughs, only to be followed by yet one more letdown for the family and friends of Holloway. Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, who has been a tirelessly campaigner for justice for her missing daughter, believes Van der Sloot’s recorded statement, and has finally given up any hope she may have had concerning the ever-so-remote possibility that her daughter might still somehow be alive.

When I spoke with Depak Kalpoe shortly after Holloway's disappearance, he professed his innocence while indicating his belief that the case would never go away due to Beth Holloway Twitty’s tenacity. It would appear that should deVries finally have “the goods” on Van der Sloot or someone else, arrests may eventually follow.

Secret tapes of a suspect’s confession are a good starting place for an investigation, but proof beyond a reasonable doubt remains the standard. What the police in Aruba now need to determine is the identity of the person Van der Sloot says he called to help him dispose of the victim’s body and try somehow to take Van der Sloot’s statements into a courtroom where truth will finally trump lie, and guilt can be ascribed to those really responsible for Holloway’s death and/or the criminal disposal of her body.

Van der Sloot, for his part, joked on the secret videotape about the ineptness of the Aruban police, calling the police idiots and further stating it was now time for him to cash in on this case, i.e. he wants to make money concerning Holloway’s disappearance and now believed death.

No matter the final outcome, candid camera, apparently, has reached a new level, but can this tape in and of itself convict Van der Sloot of murder? Most legal experts believe not. We’ll now see if the Aruban police, given one more chance, can finally solve this case that has haunted Aruba for almost three years.

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC analyst. His Web site, www.LiveSecure.org, provides readers with security-related information.

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