Natalee Ann Holloway was born on October 21, 1986. She was the daughter of David Holloway and Beth Holloway, the couple separated in 1993, and the girl and her younger brother were raised by their mother.
In the year 2000, after her mother’s second marriage, Natalee and her brother moved in with the new family in the state of Alabama in Mountain Brook.
Natalee Holloway was quite popular in school, participating in various extracurricular activity groups, and graduated with honors, receiving a full scholarship to study medicine.1
On May 26, 2005, the graduation trip took off. Natalee and 124 other high school students boarded a plane to Aruba, where they would stay at an all-inclusive hotel and spend five days enjoying the local attractions.
During this time, the teenagers were supervised by a team of seven people, including school staff and some parents of students.
At certain times of the day, the team would gather the young people and check if everything was okay, but there was no constant supervision, and the youngsters had the freedom to explore the city and go to the beach without adults present.
The teenagers drank a lot, almost all the time. Although in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21, in Aruba, 18-year-olds are already allowed to consume alcohol.
Natalee Holloway was not accustomed to drinking, but during the trip, she also overindulged several times. According to friends, on two different days, the girl missed breakfast because she was hungover after a night of partying.
Night of Disappearance
On the night of May 29, 2005, Natalee and some friends went to the bar and nightclub Carlos’n Charlie’s in Oranjestad. Before that, they had spent some time playing cards and drinking at a casino.
Days before, at the same bar, Natalee and her schoolmates had met Joran van der Sloot, 17 years old, and his two Surinamese friends, Deepak Kalpoe, 21 years old, and Satish Kalpoe, 18 years old.
The group met the boys in various places during those days. Joran was known in town mainly for getting girls drunk and then taking them to his apartment, a fact unknown to the school staff on duty.
Natalee encountered Joran Van der Sloot at the bar that day. They and the rest of the group enjoyed the night and stayed there until the bar closed. When it was time to return to the hotel, Natalee’s friends said she was in the car with Van der Sloot and appeared happy.
The friends said their goodbyes and returned to the hotel, confident that Natalee had arranged a ride and that they would be together again in the morning for the return to the United States.
The next day, the students had breakfast and began packing. Natalee was not among them, and the hotel reception informed them that the girl had not returned the previous night. The police were quickly called, and Beth Holloway received the news that her daughter was missing.
The students and the school staff waited for Natalee to appear until the last minute, but the plane needed to depart with the other passengers.
Search for Natalee Holloway
Beth Holloway was in despair. She and some family members immediately flew to Aruba and went straight to a police station. The local authorities did not take the disappearance very seriously, believing that Natalee had vanished voluntarily and would soon return after a “teenage prank.”
Faced with police inaction, the Holloway family decided they needed to take matters into their own hands. They went to the hotel, spoke to the staff, and quickly discovered Joran’s full name, as he had been the last one with Natalee.
After 48 hours, the police decided to treat the case as a disappearance. They went to Joran Van der Sloot’s apartment and found the boy and his two loyal friends.
Joran gave multiple versions to the police, at times saying he left Natalee at the hotel and went away, and at other times claiming they went to the beach to see sharks, and Natalee decided to stay there for the rest of the night.
All versions were disproven, either by security cameras at the hotel entrance or by statements from fishermen who were on the beach that night. Nevertheless, the police could not arrest any of the young men, as there was no evidence to do so.
The search and rescue efforts for Holloway began immediately. Hundreds of volunteers from both countries were involved. During the early days of the search, the government of Aruba gave thousands of public employees a day off to participate in the rescue effort. Fifty Dutch marines conducted an extensive search along the coast.
On June 9th, Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Holloway. According to Dutch law, a suspect can be detained for up to 116 days without charges if a judge determines that the police have good reason.
On June 17, a witness later identified as disc jockey Steve Gregory Croes was also arrested. Steve Croes worked as a DJ at cruise ship parties that passed through Aruba and voluntarily went to the police, claiming he saw Natalee entering the hotel after being dropped off by Van der Sloot.
The police proved the story was false, and they arrested the man for false testimony. On June 22, the Aruba police arrested Van der Sloot’s father, Paul van der Sloot. Both Paul and Steve were released on June 26.
After hearings before a judge, the Kalpoe brothers were released on Monday, July 4, but Van der Sloot was detained for an additional 60 days.2
In the months following his release, Van der Sloot gave several interviews explaining his version of events. The most notable interview was broadcast on Fox News over three nights in March 2006.
During the interview, Van der Sloot indicated that Holloway wanted to have sex with him but didn’t because they didn’t have a condom. He claimed that Natalee Holloway wanted them to stay on the beach, but he had to go to school in the morning. According to Van der Sloot, he was picked up by Satish Kalpoe around 3 a.m. and left Holloway sitting on the beach.
Later, Van der Sloot called the broadcaster saying everything he had said was a lie, and he only did it because he needed the money he was paid for the interview. Nevertheless, the program aired.
On November 24, 2008, Fox News aired a new interview with Van der Sloot in which he claimed he sold Holloway to people involved in sex trafficking, receiving money both when Holloway was taken and later to keep quiet.
He also claimed that his father bribed two police officers who knew that Holloway had been taken to Venezuela. This statement garnered a lot of media attention, as his father was about to become a judge, and one of his godfathers was an influential police officer in the region.
In the years that followed, various lines of investigation appeared, and some suspects were arrested, questioned, and released. The police suggested that Natalee had died from intoxication or even a drug overdose, always distancing Van der Sloot from the case, which seemed somewhat biased.
The Murder of Stephany Ramirez
A hotel video clearly shows Joran Van der Sloot and Stephany Flores Ramirez entering a room together on May 30, 2010, at 5:16 AM in Peru. Three hours and 20 minutes later, he left the hotel alone carrying a backpack and even made sure to inform the staff that his girl did not want to be disturbed.3
Three days later, the young woman was found beaten and dead on the premises. An intense search for Van der Sloot began, and the police managed to apprehend him in Chile after a taxi driver recognized him and alerted the authorities.
On June 7th, Peruvian authorities said that Van der Sloot confessed to killing Stephany Ramirez after losing his temper because she accessed his laptop without permission and found information connecting him to the Holloway case.
Jawbone is Found
In June 2011, after six years with no answers, Dave Holloway filed a petition in Alabama courts to have his daughter legally declared dead. On January 12, 2012, the petition was accepted, and Natalee Holloway was declared dead.
On November 12, 2010, tourists found a jawbone on a beach in Aruba, near the Phoenix Hotel and the Bubali Swamp. 4 The bone was sent for testing, but it was confirmed not to belong to Natalee Holloway.
Despite the sample not matching the victim in question, families of other missing women in the region years earlier were dissatisfied with the forensic police’s lack of attention.
The jawbone found could have belonged to Amy Bradley, who disappeared from a cruise ship en route to Curaçao in 1998, or to many other young women who disappeared during vacations in the Caribbean.
Still No Answers
The police’s actions in the Holloway case were widely criticized, including in a book written by the mother of the young woman in 2007: Loving Natalee: A Mother’s Testament of Hope and Faith. The Caribbean region has been drawing negative attention for a long time, as many people simply disappeared there without a trace.
There are theories that human trafficking for sexual purposes operates directly in the region, mainly targeting solo female tourists or groups of friends.
The Natalee Holloway case remains unanswered to this day. Van der Sloot has never been formally charged or tried in this case; he is serving his 28-year sentence for the murder of Stephany Ramirez in Challapalca prison, Peru.