“He's a monster. I know that he was responsible for the demise of Natalee. And I'll never, never not believe that.”
It was the 29th of May 2005. A Sunday. It had been a teenager's dream trip, a group of friends lying around on the beach all day in Aruba, sunbathing, relaxing, chatting, having fun, and luxuriating in the fact that, for a few days they were completely free, free of chores, free of making decisions and free of school work. Eighteen year old Natalee Holloway was having a great week in Aruba celebrating her school graduation.
Natalee grew up in Mountain Brook, Alabama, United States. Her parents, Dave Holloway and Beth Twitty divorced and Natalee and her younger brother Matthew spent most of their time at Beth's house. Beth wasn't worried when Natalee asked her if she could go on vacation to Aruba. It was a tradition at Mountain Brook High School and Natalee had worked hard there, she was an honors student and had earned a full academic scholarship to the University of Alabama, where she planned to get on the pre-med track. The trip was organised by Birmingham's Mountain Brook High School for the seniors to go to the Caribbean island of Aruba. There were 124 students on the trip and 7 teachers went also to supervise.
The house where Natalee lived
The 29th of May was the last full day Natalee had in Aruba. Every day they were in Aruba, the routine was more or less the same. They would get up when they wanted to, lounge on the beach all day, nap and then get ready to go out for dinner and to a bar. That day was no different. But Natalee wanted to make sure she was ready for her flight the next day so she made sure to pack her suitcase and she laid her passport out ready beside it before she went to dinner.
Natalee (on the left) with friends in Aruba
The next day, the 30th of May, the group met in the Holiday Inn lobby , the hotel where Natalee had stayed during the trip, to check out and make their way to the airport. The Holiday Inn hotel is seen along Palm Beach in Aruba. There was one person missing from the group. Natalee. None of her friends knew where she was.
A little after 11 am, Jody Bearman, one of seven adults who had escorted the group, called Beth. She told her that Natalee had not met the group in the Holiday Inn lobby for their return flight home. Beth immediately felt something was wrong and believed her daughter had been kidnapped. She knew Natalee very well and there was no way that Natalee would miss that flight. She was so reliable. Beth knew her daughter was a smart girl but not street wise so she feared for her safety.
Natalee and Beth
Beth called 911 and the FBI and reported Natalee missing and then drove 110 miles through Mississippi to get a flight. She went straight to Aruba with Natalee's stepfather, George Twitty, and two of his friends. Dave Holloway also made his way to Aruba.
When they got to Aruba, they immediately began searching and asking questions. They handed out pictures of Natalee and were very hands on in the investigation from the outset. Beth discovered that Natalee had not spent the night in her hotel room the night of the 29th. Some of her friends saw her talking to a very tall Dutch teenager. They believed she may have left with him. Natalee was last seen around 1.30 am leaving a bar called Carlos’n Charlie's in Oranjestad and getting in a grey Honda with three men. George's nephew Thomas had played poker with a Dutch teenager who fit the description the friends gave at the casino in the Holiday Inn. He recalled that his name was Joran. Surveillance footage from a casino adjacent to Natalee’s hotel showed her seated at the same blackjack tables Joran. The footage was taken hours before she was seen leaving the Carlos’n Charlie's bar with him. A hotel employee knew who Joran was and told them that his name was Joran van der Sloot. Beth said that the hotel employee said:
"He tends to prey upon young female tourists."
Joran van der Sloot was born in the Netherlands and was seventeen years old. He lived in Aruba with his parents, Paulus and Anita. His father, Paulus van der Sloot, was an attorney and was in the process of becoming a Judge.
Joran van der Sloot
Beth and the police went to Joran's home. The grey Honda she was last seen getting into was parked outside.Paulus answered the door. When the police spoke to him, he made a phone call and told them that Joran was out gambling. He was at the Wyndham resort's casino.
The Wyndham was just down a bit from the Holiday Inn and they all went there to see Joran. But he wasn't there. Paulus made another call and informed them that Joran was home. Back at Joran's home, Joran and a friend, Deepak Kalpoe, were waiting outside.
From that point, their stories changed a number of times. Initially, they claimed that they had no idea who Natalee was but then Joran admitted he met her at the Holiday Inn's casino. Joran claimed that she asked him to go to Carlos 'n Charlie's with her but he declined. When he got home, he changed his mind and called his friend, Deepak Kalpoe to see if he would go too. Deepak and his brother Satish collected him in his car and they went to the bar.
Joran, Deepak and Satish
They claimed that they dropped her back to the hotel around 2am and they saw a security guard approach her. That resulted in two local men being arrested and later released. Surveillance footage from the hotel showed no evidence that Natalee had returned to the hotel that night.
They were arrested a number of times over the course of the investigation but never charged. Their story changed under questioning and they said that they went to Arashi Beach and then back to the hotel. That changed to Joran claiming that Deepak and Satish dropped them at the beach. After "fooling around with her", Joran left her on the beach. She was so drunk, he told police, that she was in and out of consciousness. Deepak and Satish backed up his new story.
Arashi Beach, Aruba
The relationship between Beth and Natalee's family and the Aruban authorities began to deteriorate. Natalee's family were frustrated that police were not getting more answers from Joran. They believed he was involved in Natalee's disappearance and did not believe his account. The Aruban authorities believed the family were putting too much pressure on them to make an arrest before they had enough evidence. That all caused problems with the investigation.
At one point, Joran, Deepak and Satish were in custody for three weeks and most people thought charges were about to be filed. But no charges were brought. Deepak and Satish were released and Joran was ordered to be held for a further 60 days.
Joran van der Sloot
The case was a high profile missing person case. It received huge media coverage which was a concern for Aruban authorities as they rely on tourists from America. Because the case was so high profile, there were a large number of tips and leads and sightings which even led to a number of people being arrested throughout the investigation.
One such tip came from a gardener at the Aruba Racquet Club who gave police a sworn statement that he saw all three men in a car near the club at around 2.30 am. on the 30th of May 2005. He claimed that he saw Joran, Deepak and Satish digging at a vacant lot there. Police drained a pond near where the gardener claimed he had seen them digging. Nothing was found in connection with Natalee.
Even though Natalee's family believed that Joran knew what happened to Natalee, the reality was that no evidence was found and nobody knew exactly what happened to Natalee or where she was.
Three years after Natalee's disappearance, CNN reported that Aruban authorities had two new leads to follow. A witness claimed they saw Paulus and Joran near a pond at 4am on the 30th of May 2005. Joran ran from the pond toward a fast food restaurant and then the two men drove off a few minutes later in a red jeep.
The second lead was in relation to a former girlfriend of Joran. She told police Joran had said to her one night:
"Who knows? You may now be on the beach with someone who is able to get rid of a corpse?"
Despite the multiple leads, tips and the changing stories and accounts, Aruban authorities believed they did not have enough to charge the men. The cases against Joran, Deepak and Satish have been dismissed. Their cases will only be reopened if new details emerge. They have never been charged in connection to Natalee Holloway's disappearance.
Despite that, Joran seemed to revel in his new found fame. A year after Natalee's disappearance, he returned to the Netherlands for school. He agreed to do an interview with ABC News. He told ABC News that he left Natalee Holloway on the beach the night she disappeared and went home.
In 2008, a tape emerged showing Joran describing Natalee’s death. It was filmed via a hidden camera by a Dutch crime reporter,Peter de Vries. In the tape he said that he had been on the beach with Natalee and they had sex. But afterwards, she began shaking and lost consciousness. He asked a friend to take her body out in a boat to sea and dispose of her body.
Aruban authorities were unable to corroborate Joran's statements.That same year, Greta Van Susteren interviewed Joran in Thailand. Joran told Greta that he sold Natalee into sexual slavery. He called her afterwards and said that it was a lie.
Two years later, in 2010, Beth Holloway’s lawyer, John Q. Kelly, claimed that Joran contacted him. He used a different name in the email but in the email he allegedly said that he wanted $250,000 ,$25,000 up front, and he would reveal the location of Natalee Holloway’s remains.Beth and John worked with the FBI to gather evidence against him for possible wire fraud and extortion. The money, the US$25000, was paid and John claimed that Joran allegedly took him to a location away from the hotel. He also had a new story. He picked Natalee up but she wanted him to put her down so he threw her down and when she fell, her head hit a rock and she died. His father then buried her in the house’s foundation.
After that encounter, John received an email from him claiming that that story was also a lie.
U.S. federal prosecutors announced wire and extortion charges against Joran in connection with the US$25000 he allegedly received and the meeting that took place between him and Beth's solicitor. When he finishes his sentence in Peru, he will be extradited to the US.
Whatever Joran does or does not know about Natalee's disappearance, one thing is certain. He enjoys playing a game. He clearly takes pleasure in being the centre of attention and has no respect for or desire to help Natalee's family in any way. We do not know the truth yet. Maybe it is hidden somewhere between all the lies. If Joran was involved and someone, whether it was his father or friends or someone else, knew and helped him cover it up, then they too are responsible for Stephany's death. If he was involved in Natalee's disappearance, he should never have been free to murder an innocent woman. The fact that he continues to play games with Natalee's family is testament to the fact that he is an evil predator and the only place he should ever be is in prison.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello