The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway
The disappearance of the young, beautiful American girl created a media sensation across the globe, but the case is still shrouded in mystery.
Born on the 21st of October 1986 to Dave and Beth, Natalee spent her teenage years living in Mountain Brook, an affluent community in Birmingham, Alabama. She lived with her brother, mother and her stepfather Jug Twitty, an Alabama businessman.
Natalee at high school via Oxygen
Natalee was an honours student and was also a member of the dance squad, attended bible club and other societies at high school. She had won a full scholarship to the University of Alabama and planned to follow a pre-med vocation. The graduation trip to Aruba was the final blowout before she and her classmates began the next chapter in their lives.
On the 26th of May 2005, 124 graduates from Mountain Brook High School and seven chaperones boarded their plane to Aruba. The flight took around five and a half hours, and when they landed, they began their five-day celebration of drinking and partying.
The group stayed at the Holiday Inn on the beach at the top end of Aruba. The island is a constituent country of the Netherlands, where today, over 4% of the country’s population is Dutch. The island caters to American tourism to the majority of the residents speak a minimum of four languages, including English.
With the drinking age being 18, the classmates could enjoy their first legal beverages together. The holiday package was also all-inclusive, so they would enjoy a hearty send-off before they all parted ways.
The first few days of the trip were alcohol-fuelled, as Natalee and her friends explored the island and what Aruba had to offer. They spent time at the beach, where their enormous group of classmates dominated the tiki bars on the sand and made lasting memories.
28th of May
Natalee and her friends joined an excursion to the Antilla shipwreck, a German ship that sank in the 1940s. They snorkelled around the wreckage and later headed back to their rooms to prepare for the evening ahead.
As with the nights before, the classmates and chaperones had dinner together and then went to various clubs around the island. Their favourite spots revolved around the capital, Oranjestad, where they frequented bars like Carlos’ n Charlie’s and Choose a Name, which catered to tourists, serving American cuisine.
Carlos’ n Charlie’s via travelblog.org
The night was long, with many of the group drinking large amounts of alcohol and stumbling home in the early hours of the following day. Natalee partook in the heavy drinking and missed breakfast on more than one occasion during the trip.
Monday was their last full day on the island, and after a roll call from the chaperones, Natalee started her day with a cocktail from the all-inclusive hotel. She and her friends spent most of the day at the beach relaxing before heading back to their room to get ready at 6 pm.
After a final dinner with classmates, Natalee and her friends headed up to the 2nd floor of the Holiday Inn hotel to the casino, where they played blackjack. Natalee’s friend struck up a conversation with a guy hanging around the table. His name was Joran Van der Sloot, a 17-year-old Dutch student who was studying at the International School of Aruba.
Natalee’s friend was losing at blackjack, so Van der Sloot gave her some tips until she was $100 up, and around 9.45 pm, they left the table to get drinks. Van der Sloot had to leave but was convinced by the women to meet up with them later in Oranjestad.
At 10 pm, Natalee and her friends attempted to board a bus into Oranjestad but were refused by the driver, as they still had drinks in their hands. So instead, they took a taxi into the capital, which took around 10 minutes.
They met their friends at Carlos’ n Charlie’s nightclub and continued their evening, dancing and drinking with their classmates. The majority of the club was taken up by the Mountain Brook students, making the club a safe place for the young girls on the trip.
Joran Van der Sloot, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe via pressreader.com
Around midnight, Van der Sloot arrived at the nightclub with two friends. He and Natalee drank and danced for the remaining hour that the club was open.
At 1 am, the students began to leave, milling around in the streets, waiting for their friends, but Natalee wasn’t part of the group.
Her friends thought that she may have gone to another club that was open later, Choose a Name, but she wasn’t there either when they checked.
Natalee’s friend eventually went back to the hotel, where she sat in the lobby until the early hours of the morning, waiting for Natalee to return. Finally, the friend went to bed when she still hadn’t shown up.
This was the last day of the holiday, and Natalee had still not returned to the hotel. The classmates had been swapping rooms throughout the trip, but when asked, no one had let Natalee bunk in their room that night.
Other classmates said they had seen Natalee leaving the nightclub with three men in a silver Honda Civic, which they assumed was a taxi.
In Natalee’s hotel room, her passport and other belongings were still there, as was her mobile phone. She had purposefully left her cellphone behind as she didn’t get a signal on the island.
The time came for the group to return to the airport, and Natalee was still missing. One of the chaperones stayed behind in case Natalee returned to her room. Another had the job of calling her mother to break the news that her daughter couldn’t be found.
Natalee’s mother, Beth and her husband, Jug, flew to Aruba by private jet as soon as they heard the news. Within a couple of hours of landing on the island, the Twittys had Van der Sloot’s full name and address from the night manager at the Holiday Inn. They took this information to the police, and together with the Twitty’s friends, they all descended on Van der Sloot’s home.
Aruba via Aruba.com
Initially, Van der Sloot denied knowing Natalee but then told the group that he had dropped her back at her hotel after spending some time together. He said Natalee wanted to see the sharks, so they had taken her to Arashi Beach, around 10 minutes from the hotel.
When they dropped her back at the Holiday Inn, Van der Sloot stated that she was approached by a man in a black shirt, resembling the security guards’ uniform. However, security cameras showed that Natalee hadn’t returned to the hotel that night.
The search for Natalee started immediately and hundreds of volunteers from Aruba and the U.S aided in the search. To help, the Aruban Government gave thousands of workers the day off to assist the volunteers.
Natalee’s mother was provided with somewhere to stay during their time on the island, and she opted to stay in the room Natalee was assigned during her trip before moving to the Wyndham Hotel.
On the 5th of June, two security guards were arrested. The pair worked at a nearby hotel that was closed for renovations at the time. It’s believed that their arrests came from statements made by Van der Sloot during the first police questioning. They were both released without charge, and the police turned their enquiries back to Van der Sloot.
After a week of investigation, Van der Sloot and his two friends, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murder on the 9th of June. They changed their stories again, stating they left Natalee on the beach, sleeping. Van der Sloot later changed his story once more and told police that the brothers dropped him off and then took Natalee back to her hotel around 2 am.
The issue investigators had was that the three men began to blame each other, and when finger-pointing started, it became difficult to understand the true story.
Deepak and Satish Kalpoe were released without charge on the 4th of July, but Van der Sloot would be held for another two months.
Searching for answers
The Holloway family offered a $1,000,000 reward for Natalee’s safe return and $250,000 for information on her remains. In addition, the Royal Netherlands Air Force presented the use of three F-16 aircrafts to search the area with their infrared sensors and take photographs of the island for comparison against older images to find a burial site.
Various witnesses came forward with information on suspicious activity. One man told investigators that he had seen the silver Honda parked near the Aruba Racquet Club in the early morning, with Van der Sloot and the brothers inside, trying to hide their faces.
The Racquet Club was near a pond, and this sighting of the three men at 2.30 am directly contradicted their statements given to the police. The pond took a day to drain, and there was no sign of Natalee.
Volunteers search for Natalee via Wikipedia.com
Another witness came forward, known as ‘the jogger’, who claimed to have seen men burying a blonde woman in a landfill on the 1st of June. Police searched the dump several times but did not find a body.
On the 17th of July, a park ranger found a piece of duct tape that had blonde hair embedded in it. The tape was sent to Quantico, Virginia and was tested twice, but the results confirmed that it wasn’t Natalee’s hair.
On the 26th of August, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe were rearrested along with Freddy Arambatzis. This new suspect was seen photographing underage girls, which the police believed Van der Sloot and the brothers were involved with.
A week later, Freddy Arambatzis, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe and Joran Van der Sloot were freed without charge. However, they were released under the caution that they be available to police when needed.
In January 2006, the FBI and local investigators began to reinterview Natalee’s classmates. Jug Twitty, Natalee’s stepfather, spoke to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News later that month, telling her that Natalee’s friends were happy to help.
“I have talked to a lot of students and I’ve talked to a lot of Natalee’s friends. They came over to Beth and I and talked to us and told us about it. And they’re very open. I mean, they’re not trying to hide anything. They want to try to help find Natalee. They will do anything. Anything the FBI asks them, they will answer the questions.”
In March, Van der Sloot was interviewed on Fox News over three nights, where he was given the chance to tell his side of the story in a one-on-one interview with Greta Van Susteren.
He told Greta about his movements on the night Natalee disappeared and the odd conversations they had. He told Greta that he and Natalee went back to his home in the silver Honda Civic, but as they pulled up to his house, Natalee decided she wanted to see the sharks. He said that they left her on the beach, and that he was regretful for leaving her alone.
Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig, who led the investigation, was interviewed on CBS and stated that he believed that Natalee likely died from alcohol or drug poisoning rather than being murdered.
“We feel strongly that she probably went into shock or something happened to her system with all the alcohol — maybe on top of that, other drugs, which either she took or they gave her — and that she … just collapsed.”
In April 2006, Geoffrey Van Cromvoirt was detained by Aruban investigators on suspicion of drug dealing, which prosecutors believed may have led to Natalee’s disappearance.
In September, Guido Wever was apprehended on suspicion of abducting and killing Natalee but was released without charge. Dutch National Police took over the case after these arrests and began to point their investigation back toward the island of Aruba.
The Dutch police examined the laptops taken from the Kalpoe brothers and Van der Sloot and found conversations between the three. Investigators believed that Natalee hadn’t been taken to the beach and instead had gone back to Van der Sloot’s apartment at the back of his parents’ home.
The Kalpoe brothers and Van der Sloot were arrested again on the 21st of November 2007, with police citing manslaughter and causing severe bodily harm that resulted in the death of Natalee Holloway. However, by December, all three had been released and not charged, despite opposition from prosecutors.
In 2010, Van der Sloot told Natalee’s parents that he would reveal the location of Natalee’s remains if he were paid for the information. He demanded $250,000 and was initially wired $25,000.
The FBI set up an undercover sting operation, and an agent filmed the initial payment being passed to Van der Sloot. He showed Aruban investigators where Natalee was buried and that his father had buried her under the foundations. However, the house he named as her burial spot was still a dusty, vacant plot at the time of her disappearance.
“I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family. Her parents have been making my life tough for five years.” — Van der Sloot in De Telegraaf
While the FBI was gathering the evidence for extortion and wire fraud against Van der Sloot, he took the money still in his bank account and caught a flight to Peru. He left his mother a note telling her that he had been invited to participate in a poker tournament.
On the 30th of May 2010, Joran Van der Sloot killed Stephany Flores Ramírez. Police initially thought that the pair had been kidnapped, as Peruvian investigators weren’t aware of the disappearance of Natalee Holloway and didn’t know who Joran Van der Sloot was, yet.
Stephany Flores Ramirez via CNN.com
The body of 21-year-old Stephany was found three days later in a hotel room registered to Van der Sloot, and he was arrested in Chile the same day and extradited back to Peru.
Van der Sloot confessed to killing Stephany because she had accessed his laptop and found information that could link him to Natalee’s disappearance. On the 11th of January 2012, Joran Van der Sloot was charged with first-degree murder and robbery in Lima Superior Court in Peru.
Joran Van der Sloot in court via PRI.org
The Twittys criticised Aruban police for the progress into Natalee’s disappearance. The citizens and police of Aruba, who had helped search for the young American, were quick to respond.
Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig said that the Twittys hindered the investigation, causing the police to make early arrests without building a case.
“Basically, Jug wanted us to come over and beat a confession out of these boys. We couldn’t do that. These guys are hardheaded, especially Joran. We couldn’t get a confession.”
While Jug Twitty vehemently denied these allegations, it does pose the question as to why no one was ever charged in Natalee’s disappearance.
Due to Dutch jurisprudence, the time prosecutors have to arrest and interrogate suspects with no evidential indication has gone, and there are no new clues to follow up. Bones have been found on Aruba and tested against Natalee’s DNA throughout the years, but none have ever matched.
Many have questioned why Beth Twitty immediately thought that Natalee had been kidnapped and had not gone off her own accord.
Natalee’s father filed to declare his daughter legally dead, and in January 2012, Judge Alan King signed the declaration.
On Van der Sloot’s conviction, his mother, Anita, told Dutch TV that she believed that her son could have killed Stephany and would not be visiting him in prison.
“I believe in karma, I believe that very strongly. I believe that if you do things that you shouldn’t do, that a lot of shit happens to you…”
Aruban tourism declined in the year Natalee went missing. The arrival of U.S holidaymakers fell by 7% in 2005, and along with an economic effect, it also had an emotional outcome for the locals.
The Los Angeles Times spoke to Marcelino Maduro, a taxi driver of 17 years, who defended his island.
“The truth is, Aruba is safe. We don’t have people begging. There’s no bad neighborhood where a tourist feels he could be in trouble. We were all shocked when whatever happened to this girl happened.”
The FBI is still seeking information on Natalee’s disappearance in the hope of bringing closure to the 15-year-old case.
Both of Natalee’s parents have written books about their experience of their daughter’s disappearance. Beth Twitty wrote Loving Natalee: The True Story of the Aruba Kidnapping and Its Aftermath, and Dave Holloway wrote Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise. There are numerous other books penned about Natalee’s disappearance.
Natalee would be in her thirties if she was alive today and would likely be pursuing a career in medicine. Her mother, Beth, set up the Natalee Holloway Resource Centre to help the families of missing people.
Natalee Holloway via filmdaily.co