Lima: A young Dutchman previously arrested in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba is the prime suspect in the weekend killing of a Peruvian woman, police said Wednesday.
Joran van der Sloot is being sought for Sunday`s death of 21-year-old Stephany Flores in a Lima hotel, police Gen. Cesar Guardia said at a news conference. He said the suspect crossed into Chile the next day by bus.
Authorities in Chile confirmed van der Sloot entered their country Monday and said there was no record of him leaving. Police Inspector Douglas Rodriguez in Arica told a news agency that police were searching hotels and homes in northern Chile for the suspect.
The killing occurred exactly five years after the May 30, 2005, disappearance of Holloway in Aruba, a Dutch Caribbean island. Prosecutors said van der Sloot is still their main suspect in the case even though he had to be released for lack of evidence.
The Dutch government said Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for van der Sloot. But Rodriguez, the Chilean police official, said authorities there had only received a request to locate his whereabouts, not an arrest warrant.
Guardia said the 22-year-old Dutchman, who was in Peru for a poker tournament, appears with the young woman in a video taken at a Lima casino early Sunday and the two were later seen entering the hotel by one of its employees.
The victim`s father, circus empresario and former race car driver Ricardo Flores, said his daughter dropped off some girlfriends at 2:35 a.m. then apparently returned to the casino. She and van der Sloot were seen entering the hotel room about 5 a.m. and the Dutchman departed alone about four hours later, the police general said.
"We have an interview with a worker at the hotel who says she saw this foreigner with the victim enter his room," said Guardia.
Stephany Flores` body was found face down on the hotel room floor Wednesday, abrasions on her face and body, and signs of trauma, Guardia said. He said she was clothed.
Asked if she had been asphyxiated, Guardia said he was waiting for autopsy results on the cause of death.
He said Van der Sloot left Peru on Monday by land, his exit registered at the Santa Rosa border crossing. The suspect had been staying at the hotel since May 14, after arriving on a flight from Colombia, the police general added.
The victim`s father is a 48-year-old former president of the Peruvian Automobile Club who won the "Caminos del Inca" rally in 1991 and brings circuses and foreign entertainers to Peru. He ran for vice president in 2001 and for president five years later on fringe tickets.
A lawyer for van der Sloot in New York, Joe Tacopina, said he did not know his client`s whereabouts and had not been in touch with him since the Peru allegations emerged.
Tacopina cautioned against a rush to judgment.
"Joran van der Sloot has been falsely accused of murder once before. The fact is he wears a bull`s-eye on his back now and he is a quote-unquote usual suspect when it comes to allegations of foul play," Tacopina said.
Van der Sloot was twice arrested but later released for lack of evidence in the 2005 disappearance of Holloway, who was on a high school graduation trip to Aruba.
No trace of her has been found and van der Sloot remains the main suspect in the case, said Ann Angela, spokeswoman for the Aruba prosecutor`s office.
"What`s happening now is incredible," she said. "At this moment we don`t have anything to do with it, but we are following the case with great interest and if Peruvian authorities would need us, we are here."
Van der Sloot`s late father was a prominent judge in Aruba.
The mystery of Holloway`s disappearance has garnered wide attention on television and in newspapers in Europe and the United States.
Two years ago, a Dutch television crime reporter captured hidden-camera footage of van der Sloot saying he was with Holloway when she collapsed on a beach from being drunk. He said he believed she was dead and asked a friend to dump her body in the sea.
Judges subsequently refused to arrest van der Sloot on the basis of the tape.
A spokeswoman for Holloway`s mother, Beth Twitty of Mountain Brook, Alabama, told the AP the family was aware of the development in Peru but would have no comment.