Feb. 8, 2008 -- Joran Van der Sloot, the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, spent more than two hours answering questions from police in the Netherlands today, following this week's bombshell disclosures that he had been caught on undercover video apparently admitting that a friend took Holloway's body and dumped it in the ocean off Aruba.
Holloway's father said Thursday that a volunteer search and rescue team has again been probing the waters off the coast of Aruba for any signs of the Alabama teen's body.
According to Aruba's public prosecutor's office, Van der Sloot maintained that he had been high on marijuana when he made a series of self-incriminating statements about the disappearance, and that he was sticking by his original story that he had left the young woman, intoxicated, on a beach and went home that night.
"He denies any knowledge of what happened in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway,'' the statement said.
Prosecutors on Aruba had sought an arrest warrant for Van der Sloot after viewing the undercover video, which was captured by a Dutch investigative reporting team over the course of several days earlier this month. A judge denied the warrant, telling prosecutors that since Van der Sloot had been arrested and released twice without being charged in the disappearance, that the bar for a third arrest warrant would be "very, very high,'' Aruba's public prosecutor, Hans Mos, said earlier this week.
Police searched Van der Sloot's home in the Netherlands Monday, the day after the hidden camera story aired on Dutch television Sunday night. The undercover video was featured in a 90-minute "20/20" special on ABC News Monday evening.
Van der Sloot last week insisted in the Dutch press that he had lied earlier this month when he told Patrick Van der Eem, whom he considered a close friend and confidant, that he'd panicked when Holloway appeared to go into convulsions during a sexual encounter, and he called a friend, who took her seemingly lifeless body out to sea.
Neither Van der Sloot nor his attorney could be reached for comment Friday.
The tapes were turned over to prosecutors by Dutch investigative reporter Peter R. De Vries last week.
Mos said he considers undercover tapes made by Dutch investigative reporter Peter De Vries to contain "very valuable information'' that he believes will ultimately prove to be admissible in court. "We consider it serious information and very valuable information,'' Mos said this week. "That's why we asked a judge to reopen the investigation."
A judge granted that request last week but denied prosecutors' request for a third arrest warrant. Van der Sloot and two other Aruban men were arrested in the summer of 2005, and rearrested again last fall before they were released for lack of evidence in December.
Holloway's father, Dave Holloway, told Fox News Thursday that Texas Equusearch, a non-profit search and recovery group founded in 2000, had been combing the waters off Aruba since November, and mapping the ocean floor using sonar and other geographical mapping tools. In light of the potential new information from the De Vries tapes, the group would be moving its operations closer to the coastline.
"We're a step closer than what we were,'' he told Fox. "I was holding on to this boat search, that we've still got this last chance, and it is a chance, and maybe we'll get some answers from that."
Holloway said he was stunned after watching the undercover videos of Van der Sloot dispassionately talking about the night Holloway disappeared.
"The smoke is still blowing out of my ears,'' he said Thursday. "Peter [De Vries] called me … and confirmed what I had thought all along, that Natalee was no longer with us.''
Holloway said he was "expecting a simple confession or whatever, and it shell-shocked me, the attitude and the insensitivity of this kid describing what happened to Natalee and all that."
Van der Sloot's admissions on the tapes came slowly, over the course of several days in January, according to De Vries and Patrick Van der Eem, a 34-year old pot-smoking Dutch businessman and ex-con who befriended the much younger Van der Sloot in a casino last fall. He then began an undercover sting operation aimed at making the younger man comfortable enough to admit a role in the disappearance of Holloway.
Van der Sloot has steadfastly denied that role since Holloway disappeared in May 2005. Van der Sloot has told police repeatedly that the pair had an amorous encounter on a beach on the northwest side of the island, and that he left the intoxicated young woman at the beach and went home.
"I know what happened to that girl,'' Van der Sloot told Van der Eem on the undercover tapes at one point, in the first apparent admission he makes. "She's dead, isn't she?" Van der Eem asked. "Of course,'' Van der Sloot replied, coolly.
He went on to say that he was "just incredibly lucky that she's never been found. Because if they found that girl, I'd be in deep [excrement]."
Van der Sloot said that the seizure occurred during a romantic encounter between the pair, who had just met up hours before at a local nightclub. "Suddenly, she wasn't moving anymore,'' Van der Sloot said. At another point, he told Van der Eem, "I tried to shake her. And I was shaking the bitch. I was like, 'What is wrong with you man?' I almost wanted to cry.
"Why does this s*** have to happen to me?" he asked. In a voice seemingly devoid of emotion, Van der Sloot said he turned to a friend of his.
"So I went and called the guy," he said. "I didn't call him on my cell. I walked over to a pay phone, and I called him. And I told him, 'Well, this is what happened. Come, come, come help me. And please don't call the police.' He says, 'No, I won't call the police. I'm coming to you now. And he came there."
Asked how he knew Holloway was dead, Van der Sloot said he "just knew it."
Van der Sloot said that he had known the unnamed friend since childhood, and that "if I can ever do anything for him and I'd give my life for him.'' He went on to say that he'd take the man's name "to my grave,'' but a couple of days later identified him by his first name -- Daury.
After several conversations over a number of days in which Van der Sloot repeatedly talks about Holloway's disappearance, he told van der Eem, "It's a relief, really. And I've never told anyone [what happened to Holloway] in my life."
Finally, Van der Eem said, "I'm putting it away, and for me it's finished. It's finished."
When Van der Eem said, "You've got it off your chest,'' and, "It'll be all right man,'' Van der Sloot turned to Van der Eem and told him, "I'm being honest with you, Patrick.
"The two people I most trust in this and more than anyone, are that person and you."