Natalee Holloway was 18 in May of 2005, freshly graduated from high school and getting ready to attend the University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship to study pre-med. She was the oldest child of Dave Holloway and Beth (Holloway) Twitty, who divorced in 1993. Natalee lived primarily with her younger brother, Matthew, and her mother, Beth. She was an honors student, member of the school dance team, and part of the American Field Service, which was aimed at helping exchange student acclimate to the life and culture of the United States. Her uncle, Paul Reynolds, described her as naïve, and she was known to attend church regularly. She was a young woman of routine (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). By all accounts, the 18-year old from Birmingham, Alabama would not have disappeared the way that she did. The blonde haired, blue eyed young woman, standing at only five feet four inches tall and weighing in at approximately 110 pounds (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”), should have been at the Holiday Inn on May 30, 2005, when the rest of her classmates were gathering to depart for home. Instead, she was nowhere to be found.
Natalee Holloway was one of 124 senior’s from Mountain Brook High School on a trip to Aruba to celebrate graduating high school. The group traveled to Aruba on May 26, 2005, along with seven chaperones and the intention to depart on May 30, 2005 (Ott). On the final night of their stay, a large group of the seniors went to Carlos ‘N Charlie’s Nightclub in Oranjestad, Aruba, which closed at one AM. The group split at the time, some heaving back to the Holiday Inn they were staying in while others went out to various other bars. The last time Natalee was seen was at one-thirty AM on May 30, 2005, wearing a multicolored halter top, black flip flops, and a blue denim skirt. She was in a silver Honda with three men later identified as Joran van der Sloot, 17, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18 (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”). It is reported by some that Natalee had met van der Sloot at the hotel casino. Van der Sloot is a Dutch national, who was living at nearby Noord, Aruba at the time of Natalee’s disappearance. He was spotted dancing and drinking with Natalee at the bar before it closed that night (Ott).
In the morning, as the rest of the seniors gathered to leave Aruba, it was apparent that Natalee was not among her peers. Her belongings were still in her room and a chaperone was quick to alert her mother to the situation (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”)(Ott). Beth Twitty and her husband, Jug, flew to Aruba that night with some family friends to begin the search for her missing child. They question anyone that might have seen Natalee, which eventually led them to Joran van der Sloot. When questioned by the group, he admitted to leaving the bar with Natalee as well as the Kalpoe brothers, but claimed they dropped Natalee off at the Holiday inn after they went shark-watching at a nearby lighthouse, called the California Lighthouse (Ott) (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Van der Sloot led the group back to the Holiday Inn to point out a security guard he claimed he saw help Natalee into the hotel, but was unable to locate the man he was supposedly looking for (Ott). He reportedly claimed that she had fallen and hit her head when they dropped her off (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).
The first local search team was organized on June 1, 2005, made up of approximately 100 tourists and locals, which later expanded to include Aruban police, 3 F-16 fighter planes from the Netherlands, volunteers from Texas, and the Dutch Marines (Ott). On June 5th, the first of many unfruitful arrests in the case were made. Two former security guards, who had been employed at a hotel closed for renovations (Ott), were arrested after van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers claimed they saw a guard approach Natalee after they dropped her off. The two were released within two weeks, on June 18th. One of the former guards told investigators that one of the Kalpoe brothers had talked to him while he was in custody, claiming he was told that the three had lied and the brothers had left Natalee on the beach with van der Sloot instead of taking her to the Holiday Inn. Van der Sloot’s home was searched following this, leading to the seizure of computers, cameras, and two vehicles. The beach was also searched again (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Paulus van der Sloot was also arrested, along with a DJ for party boats, but both were released (Ott).
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested on June 9th, an arrest made partially due to the pressure coming down on Chiefe Gerold Dompig from family and friends of Natalee. The Kalpoe brothers officially changed their story at this time, claiming to have dropped Natalee and van der Sloot off at the Fisherman’s Hut, a spot near the beach that was between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott hotel (Ott) (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005). On the 4th of July, 2005, a judge orders the Kalpoe brothers to be released, while van der Sloot was ot held for a further 60 days (Ott).
Hope came on July 17th, when a strand of Duct tape was found on Aruba’s northeast coast with hair strands on it. Unfortunately, this proves to be a false hope, as the DNA from the hair did not match Natalee. Reports came in alter in July, on the 26th, that a young man and an older man were seen around the pond next to the Marriott Hotel, behaving suspiciously (Ott) (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Other reports say that it was the three main suspects that were spotted. Investigators began to drain the pond to investigate, hoping to find evidence of Natalee or the sneaker van der Sloot was notably missing, but stopped draining on July 30th (Ott). The missing shoe has been a noted unusual bit of the mystery, even mentioned by van der Sloot spoke with Fox News in March 2006; the shoe is a size 14 sneaker, brand new and in blue and white (Ott) (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005). Van der Sloot claims he lost the shoe that night while at the beach with Natalee (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005).
In late August of 2005, the Kalpoe brothers were again arrested, and a week later, both brothers and van der Sloot were released on the condition that they would remain available to investigators. A civil suit was filed against in van der Sloot and his father in mid-February 2006, claiming that van der Sloot has, “malicious, wanton and willful disregard of the rights, safety and well-being” of Natalee Holloway. The suit also claimed that Paulus van der Sloot had enabled Joran’s behavior. In August of that year, the suit was dismissed (Ott). Van der Sloot notably spoke about the case often during the time he could freely travel, seeming to enjoy the “fame” the case had brought him. He notably was also quick to anger when questioned about the case by others (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Knowing this, it should be no surprise that van der Sloot appeared on Fox news in early March 2006, where he spoke about his side of the story. He detailed drinking with Natalee at the Carlos ‘N Charlie’s Nightclub before leaving her on the beach that night. The interview aired over three days (Ott).
After a failed wrongful death suit was filed against the Kalpoe brothers in 2006, they along with can der Sloot were arrested again in late November 2007. Van der Sloot was taken into custody at the school he attended in the Netherlands and the Kalpoe brothers were taken in in Aruba, under the pretense of new evidence coming to light. Unfortunately, the evidence was not enough and they were all released in early December 2007. Meanwhile, the investigation continued as an American research vessel and a remote-operated vehicle spotted what could have been a human skull in a fish trap in Aruba. Divers were sent down, but nothing relevant was found in the trap (Ott).
A private investigator, Tim Miller, was hired by Dave Holloway in 2008 to continue the investigation. During this time, a man came forward, calling himself Marcos, claiming that drug runners had been hired to dispose of Natalee’s remains at sea. According to Marcos, these drug runners had actually taken her remains to Nicaragua, where they disposed of them in a hidden place that he could find. In hopes that this might be the lead he needed, Miller headed to Nicaragua to meet with Marcos. He offered to use a GPS tracker to find the supposed hiding place, and Miller reportedly received a phone call from Marcos claiming he had found her remains. Marcos told him to call Holloway and inform him that he had found her, which Miller didn’t do as he didn’t want to give Holloway false hope. In his call, Marcos claimed to have found her body wrapped up and badly decomposed, needing to transport her in two ice chests. Marcos never returned with her supposed remains, and has never been seen nor heard from again (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).
Van der Sloot continues to be the prime suspect in the case. In early 2008, he was caught on hidden camera footage by Dutch reported Peter R. de Vries. On video, he’s heard claiming Natalee collapsed suddenly on the beach and he had a friend dispose of her remains at sea when he couldn’t revive her (Ott). He claimed that he had sex with Natalee that night, and afterwards she began to shake violently and collapse (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Later, he claimed that he was lying in the hidden camera footage (Ott). Two years later, in early 2010, Paulus van der Sloot died suddenly from a heart attack (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021), and Joran van der Sloot, possible desperate for money following his father’s death, emailed Beth Twitty’s lawyer, John Q. Kelly. In the email he offered to reveal where Natalee was buried, in exchange for $25,000 up front and a further $225,000 after. An agreement was struck and the information was sent to the FBI (Ott).
On May 10, 2010, nearly five years to the day that Natalee disappeared, Kelly headed to Aruba with $10,000 to meet van der Sloot in Aruba. He was lead to a house, where van der Sloot claimed his gather had buried Natalee in the foundation. With the information in hand, a further $15,000 was transferred to van der Sloot’s account in the Netherlands, with the understanding that he would turn himself in the next day. Instead of turning himself in, van der Sloot travels to Peru with the money to engage in a poker tournament (Ott). This would prove to be his downfall.
On May 30, 2010, five years to the day of Natalee’s disappearance, van der Sloot murdered 21-year old Stephany Flores in his hotel room in Lima, Peru. The body wasn’t immediately discovered, as he left instructions for housekeeping not to disturb his girlfriend. She was found beaten to death in the room. He was arrested on June 3, 2010, in Vina Del Mar, Chile. He was found in a taxi, hair cut and dyed red as if he was trying to disguise him. While being held in the high-security Castro Castro Prison, he was indicted in the United States for wire fraud and extortion as part of an investigation into the $25, 000 he got from Twitty and her lawyer. When questioned as to why he wasn’t arrested after the wire payment, investigators said they didn’t have enough evidence. Unfortunately, this allowed van der Sloot to murder Flores (Ott).
At trial in January 2012, van der Sloot plead guilty to the murder of Stephany Flores. His defense lawyers claim it was his mental state to blame, as he was under extreme stress from the continued investigation into Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. The prosecution had another view: he had murdered Flores for the same motivation that so many others have had, money. Flores had won during the poker tournament he had traveled to Peru for. The next day, on January 12, 2012, Natalee Holloway is officially declared dead at Dave Holloway’s request. Beth Twitty was against this, as she still hopes to bring her daughter home alive. Van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to pay $75,000 to the Flores family in reparations for her death. While this seemed a sign of hope for Natalee’s family, it was crushed when it was learned that he would not be extradited until after his sentence was fulfilled (Ott).
Oxygen aired the series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, in 2017. A man named John Lucwick came forward claiming that van der Sloot paid him $1,500 to dispose of Natalee’s remains. He claimed that most of her bones were crushed, but her skull was doused in gasoline and burned to get rid of any evidence still on the skull. Ludwick claimed that van der Sloot told him Natalee had died after having a bad reaction to some drugs he had slipped her. Unfortunately, Ludwick was fatally stabbed in March 2018, after allegedly attempting to kidnap and ex-girlfriend he was apparently stalking at knife point. During the duration of filming for the series, remains were found, but were identified as not being Natalee Holloway (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).
Officially, the Natalee Holloway case remains unsolved. Most believe that Joran van der Sloot is responsible for whatever happened to Natalee Holloway in the very early morning of May 30, 2005. It is possible we will never get an official answer, unless van der Sloot finally tells the truth about what happened that night or Natalee’s remains are finally found. It has been nearly 16 years now, and her family is still searching for answers. If you believe you may have information relating to Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, please contact your local FBI office (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”).
“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”. Federal Bureau Of Investigation, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/natalee-ann-holloway.
Cnn.com. 2005. CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005. [online] Available at: <https://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/08/01/aruba.missing/index.html> [Accessed 17 May 2021].
E! Online. 2021. Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online. [online] Available at: <https://www.eonline.com/photos/28082/untangling-the-disappearance-of-natalee-holloway> [Accessed 17 May 2021].
Ott, Tim. “Natalee Holloway: A Complete Timeline Of Her Disappearance In Aruba And Unsolved Case”. Biography, 2021, https://www.biography.com/news/natalle-holloway-murder-timeline.