Skip to main content

Dutch youth lives under shadow of Holloway case 5 years later

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Van der Sloot arrives in Peru
  • Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway disappeared in 2005 on Aruba
  • Joran van der Sloot arrested twice, never charged
  • Critics see youth as privileged playboy
  • Has told conflicting stories in Holloway case

(CNN) -- It was supposed to be a celebration -- sun, fun and relaxation on a tropical island for recent graduates savoring the heady taste of approaching adulthood.

But instead, the trip to Aruba by a group of Birmingham, Alabama, high school seniors ended in tragedy, as one of their members, 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, never returned home. Questions surrounding her fate are unanswered five years later.

Now, Joran van der Sloot, the youth twice arrested and released in Holloway's disappearance -- seen by many as a privileged playboy who has displayed no remorse or concern over her whereabouts -- has been named a suspect in the bludgeoning death of a woman in Peru, allegations that hint at a chilling pattern. Van der Sloot was arrested Thursday in Chile following a manhunt.

"It's fair to say that he's a pretty easy guy to point a finger at, a pretty easy guy to say, 'I'm confident suspecting him,'" said Joe Tacopina, who represents van der Sloot in the Aruba case. "And he's earned some of that and some of it he hasn't earned. He's been through the wringer. He's been detained twice in Aruba. There's been absolutely no credible evidence in that case whatsoever ... he was never charged with a crime there. Don't forget that."

Timeline: Natalee Holloway case
Video: Holloway suspect wanted for new murder
Video: Ex-Holloway suspect wanted in murder

Holloway was last seen in the early hours of May 30, 2005, leaving an Oranjestad, Aruba, nightclub with van der Sloot and two other men, brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. She was visiting the island with about 100 classmates to celebrate their graduation from Mountain Brook High School in suburban Birmingham.

Holloway failed to show up for her flight home the following day, and her packed bags were found in her hotel room.

Van der Sloot and the Kalpoes were arrested and released in 2005 in connection with the case, then arrested a second time in 2007 after Aruba's then-chief prosecutor Hans Mos said he had received new evidence in the case. Van der Sloot, then attending college in the Netherlands, was brought back to Aruba. But judges ruled the new evidence -- which included an Internet chat the same day Holloway disappeared with one of the three youths writing that she was dead -- was not enough to keep them in custody.

In the years since Holloway vanished, van der Sloot has consistently denied any involvement in her disappearance, police said.

"He's just totally, totally dragged us all through hell," Holloway's anguished mother, Beth, has said.

In 2008, a videotape surfaced on Dutch television. In it, van der Sloot tells a man he thought was a friend he had sex with Holloway on the beach after leaving the nightclub, then she "started shaking" and lost consciousness. He said he panicked when he could not resuscitate her and called a friend who had a boat. The two put Holloway in the boat, van der Sloot said, and he went home. The friend told him the next day that he had carried the body out and dumped it into the ocean.

"I don't lose a minute of sleep over it," van der Sloot said.

He later claimed the account was a lie, saying he told the man what he wanted to hear. A court ruled there was not enough evidence to re-arrest him. Aruba chief prosecutor Peter Blanken said the story was "unbelievable and not true."

But it's been van der Sloot's cavalier attitude toward the case that has fueled criticism, as well as conflicting statements he's made. He told Fox News in a 2008 interview he sold Holloway to human traffickers for $10,000, then in a taped interview denied it.

At the time his name first surfaced in the Holloway investigation, suspicion swirled around his parents, particularly his father, an Aruban lawyer training to be a judge. Paul van der Sloot was briefly taken into custody in 2005 on suspicion of involvement in the Holloway case. Authorities said he told his son that police had no case without a body. He was released after three days of questioning.

Holloway's parents, however, have said they met with Paul van der Sloot and continue to believe he had the answers to questions regarding their daughter.

"I remember the day I met with Paul at the prison," Dave Holloway has said. "And the thing that stuck out in my mind was I asked him all the questions, why he hid from the news media. And the last question that I had was, was he involved, and he said no. He said, 'Dave, I can understand your position, but you've got to understand mine. Joran's my son and I'll do everything I can to protect him.' And I believe it."

Van der Sloot's mother, Anita, has said her son told her he was on the beach with Holloway but left her there because she wanted to stay. She has maintained her son's innocence.

However, Tacopina said van der Sloot's relationship with his family has suffered in recent years.

"Joran in the last several years has gone in a very different direction, has not behaved in a way that is acceptable to anybody," he said, referring to van der Sloot's being paid for versions of events in the Holloway case. "It border-lined on pathological, it really did, and quite frankly I think he hurt a lot of people."

Tacopina cautioned against jumping to conclusions, saying that many times a new lead was thought to be the key to the Holloway case but didn't pan out. In March, for instance, a Pennsylvania couple told authorities a picture they took last year while snorkeling off Aruba showed something that looked like a skeleton. Authorities called off a dive team's search after two days, saying they found nothing that resembled the image depicted in the photograph.