Karel Navarro/AP
People Staff
June 10, 2010 08:15 AM

At 16, Joran van der Sloot was a star athlete. He had a girlfriend to whom he wrote love notes, and with whom he danced in the rain. Now, he has reportedly confessed to killing a young woman in a hotel room in Peru. Had there been any early signs in the Dutchman of violent behavior?

Back when he was a teen in love, van der Sloot and his girlfriend kept a diary together, which they filled with his poems about love and sexual desire. But their breakup, she says, was hurried along by his “problem with lying” – a trait he displayed to the world with ever-changing accounts of his role, at age 17, in the disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway, PEOPLE reports in its new issue, on newsstands Friday.

Exactly five years after Natalee vanished in May 2005 on a high-school graduation trip to Aruba, the main suspect in that still-unsolved case stands accused again. But this time, authorities in Peru have a body and a confession linking van der Sloot, now 23, to the murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez, in a case with striking parallels.

In exclusive interviews in PEOPLE, former intimates track the path of the charming young Dutchman who bore his stigma of a possible killer across four continents – from Aruba, to the Netherlands, to Thailand, to Peru – preceding his fateful meeting May 30 in another casino with another young woman.

RELATED: Report: Joran Van der Sloot Recounts Chilling Moments After Murder

Shunned by Pals

“All his friends turned their backs on him,” says Aline Hibbert, 22, another former girlfriend. An increasingly desperate life accompanied by drinking, drug use and gambling led even his parents to stop supporting him, and as money ran out, he tried to extort Natalee’s mom, Beth, by offering details on her daughter’s death and the body’s whereabouts.

The arrogance, temper and short fuse long witnessed by those around him flared again when – according to his confession – van der Sloot caught Flores reading about his ties to Natalee on his laptop computer. He lashed out, breaking her neck and fleeing to Chile, according to police. “I didn’t want to do it,” he said to authorities. “The girl intruded in my life.”

With the impact of that confession still uncertain on Natalee’s case, her family and friends hold out hope that van der Sloot, now behind bars, might provide them with answers.

For more on the story, including exclusive interviews with relatives of Holloway and Flores and excerpts from van der Sloot’s diary, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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