Not yet, not yet at all

Dutch television aired a videotape last Sunday (3 February 2008), in which Joran van der Sloot says he was with Natalee Holloway on an Aruban beach when she apparently died and that a friend of his with a boat disposed of Holloway’s body (further details here on CNN and here). According to crime reporter Peter R. de Vries, the case is now solved. But is it really? To be honest: not yet, not yet at all.

From a legal point of view, there are at least two major issues:

  1. Will the Aruba courts accept the tape as evidence? (This is not certain at all, given a recent judgment by the European Human Rights Court; the tape could fall into the category of illegally obtained evidence) and 
  2. How much weight has Joran’s confession (if it is a confession at all)? One cannot be convicted only on the strength of one’s own confession. Without sufficient supporting evidence, Joran cannot get convicted of any crime whatsoever. Moreover, Joran’s confession could turn out to be completely false. Some elements of said ‘confession’ have already been proven untrue.

In that respect, it should be noted that suspect Joran van der Sloot is known for a particular habit: lying. A couple of weeks ago his parents revealed on Dutch television, on the talk show of Pauw & Witteman, that Joran habitually tells lies. He himself admitted in said talk show that he tells lies more often and that lying had become a bit of a habit. It could even be pathological, which would make Joran a mythomaniac. This would mean that he tells stories in a way that he believes will impress other people. Some pathological liars do and others don’t know what they are doing: how to tell the difference?

As for  his videotaped confession, or rather, so-called confession: we simply don’t know whether he was telling the truth or lying again, wanting to give the impression that he is bigger and tougher than he actually is. Being interviewed about the videotape last week, Joran ‘confessed’ yet again to a ‘false confession’…

The question therefore remains, how does one know when a serial liar tells the truth? To be continued!

Karel Frielink
Attorney (Lawyer) / Partner


  1. See for ethical questions Morgan Geller’s Weblog: “Having a reporter deal drugs hurts the credibility of the media and raises the question as to how far the media will go in order to collect information.” See also my posting on this subject.
  2. On 14 February 2008, the Joint Court of Appeal of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba ruled that Joran van der Sloot’s secretely recorded statements were inconsistent with other evidence and insufficient to re-arrest him: “The court is of the opinion that there is a lack of sufficient facts and circumstances substantiating serious grounds for the suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in the crimes for which he is being held responsible by the prosecution” (click here). Although maybe hard to accept for (part of) the general public, the court’s approach is fully in line with the international standards on the grounds for (re-)arresting suspects. Some people are accusing Aruba’s legal system (including its courts) of ‘corruption’: they are simply wrong. And of course, mistakes can be made in each court system: one should read Timothy Master’s story and the stories of many others, for example.
  3. See for an overview of the whole case Wikipedia.
  4. On 22 September 2008, Peter R. de Vries has won an Emmy Award for his report. The report was nominated in the category Current Affairs (news) of this international television award. Curiously enough, Peter R. de Vries still believes that the case has been solved. However, despite the “prize of all prizes“, De Vries has not solved the case to any acceptable degree, neither legally, nor fundamentally! Under US law, and under the laws of most countries worldwide, the conclusion will be the same.
  5. See for Peter R. de Vries’ habit to personally attack critics and others here and here (in Dutch only).

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