Joran van der Sloot, the main suspect in the killing of a young woman in Peru last month and in the 2005 disappearance of U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway, suffers from mental problems, his mother told a Dutch newspaper in an interview published on its website Sunday.
"My son is sick in his head," De Telegraaf quoted Anita van der Sloot as saying in her first public comment since her son's latest arrest.
Joran van der Sloot has been jailed in Peru on suspicion of killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores on May 30 — five years to the day after Holloway's still-unsolved disappearance while on vacation in Aruba. Holloway was last seen alive with Van der Sloot.
Police in Peru say Van der Sloot has confessed to killing Flores. He is due to be interviewed by a judge in Lima next week.
The Van der Sloot family lives in Aruba, where the interview was conducted. Anita told the paper her son had abruptly disappeared in mid-May two days before he was due to travel to the Netherlands to stay at a mental institution. He left a note saying he was going to Peru.
Van der Sloot had been traveling the world but returned to Aruba in April after his father Paul died of a heart attack while playing tennis.
Van der Sloot confessed to, then later retracted, involvement in Holloway's disappearance several times publicly and privately. He has told his jailers in Peru he is ready to clarify the Holloway case — but only with Aruba authorities.
In the Telegraaf interview Anita told the paper she does not believe Joran 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 from the time of the Holloway disappearance. She attributed his decline in part to intense media scrutiny.
She told the paper he had called her several days before Flores' death.
"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 can't cry for Joran like I did for Paul. I hope that he gets psychological help."