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Natalee Holloway: The Caribbean Disappearance that Captured International Attention

In 2005, during a graduation trip to Aruba, in the Caribbean, 18-year-old Natalee Holloway went missing. Her disappearance not only baffled investigators and panicked her friends and family, it caught national attention. A pretty, young American woman went missing in a remote and beautiful locale? Instant media sensation.

The young woman was born in Mississippi and lived in Mountain Brook, Alabama at the time of her disappearance. To this day, her disappearance remains one of the highest-profile unsolved missing persons cases of the time.

Case Background

Holloway graduated from Mountain Brook High with honors in 2005, days before her disappearance in Aruba. She was in the Caribbean on a graduation trip with friends. Some one hundred and twenty four students from Mountain Brook High made the unofficial graduation trip, and spend five days in Aruba in late May of 2005.

Later, police commissioner Gerold Dompig, who headed the investigation from 2005 to 2006, would state that the trip was raucous and wild, despite seven chaperones accompanying the students. “…wild partying, a lot of drinking, lots of room switching every night. We know the Holiday Inn told them they weren’t welcome next year. Natalee, we know, she drank all day every day. We have statements she started every morning with cocktails—so much drinking that Natalee didn’t show up for breakfast two mornings.”

Some of Natalee’s friends agreed with the commissioner, noting that the drinking had become “kind of excessive” during the trip.

Disappearance

Holloway was last seen outside of a restaurant and nightclub in Aruba called Carlos n’ Charlie’s. She was last seen alive by three men who lived in Aruba: Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, Deepak and Satish.

Holloway failed to appear at the airport in time to make the return trip home.

The investigation began shortly after, and van der Sloot and the Kalpoes would be arrested multiple times in connection to the disappearance.

At varying points, van der Sloot seemed to privately allege that he knew what happened to Natalee. At one point, he was filmed under the influence of marijuana claiming that Natalee died while partying with the three men. At another point, he indicated that he sold her into sexual slavery. However, he has categorically denied these statements officially.

While Holloway’s case was eventually closed, unsolved, due to a lack of evidence, this was not the end of van der Sloot’s involvement with the law. He would go on to be convicted of the murder of Stephany Flores in Peru in 2010.

In spite of his conviction, van der Sloot insists he had nothing to do with Holloway’s disappearance.

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Cameron Norris