AMSTERDAM - Joran van der Sloot, the chief suspect in the murder of one woman and the disappearance of another, suffers mental problems, his mother was quoted Sunday as saying.
The 22-year-old Dutchman is suspected in the disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005. He sits now in a prison compound on the dusty outskirts of Lima, Peru, held on suspicion of killing Stephany Flores, 21, on May 30, five years to the day after Holloway vanished while on vacation.
"My son is sick in his head," the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf quoted Anita van der Sloot as saying in an interview published on its website. The comments were her first since her son's most recent arrest.
Police in Peru say Van der Sloot has confessed to killing Flores. He is to be interviewed by a judge in Lima next week.
For now, he spends his days in a nearly empty block of a high-security prison, where he shares a TV set and homemade barbells with a reputed Colombian hit man.
His family lives in Aruba, where the interview with Anita van der Sloot was conducted. She told the newspaper her son disappeared in mid-May, two days before he was scheduled to travel to the Netherlands for treatment in a mental institution. He left a note saying he was going to Peru, she said.
In the interview, Anita van der Sloot said she does not believe her son killed Holloway. "But if he killed Stephany, he'll have to pay the price. I won't visit him in his cell; I cannot embrace him," she was quoted saying.
She said Joran's mental health had deteriorated steadily since Holloway disappeared. She attributed his decline in part to media scrutiny. She told the paper he had called her several days before Flores' death, sounding paranoid.
"He said he was being followed. He had been arrested together with a girl and robbed. He was not making sense," the paper quoted her as saying. "I hope that he gets psychological help."