Holloway was scheduled to fly home later on May 30, but failed to appear for her flight. She was last seen by her classmates outside Carlos'n Charlie's, a Caribbean chain restaurant and nightclub in Oranjestad, with locals Joran van der Sloot and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. When questioned, the three men denied knowing what became of Holloway. Upon further investigation by authorities, Van der Sloot was arrested twice on suspicion of involvement in her disappearance, and the Kalpoes were each arrested three times. Due to lack of evidence, the three men were released without charge after each arrest.
With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Aruban investigators conducted an extensive search for Holloway. Agents from the FBI, fifty Dutch soldiers and three specially equipped Dutch F-16 aircraft participated in the search. In addition to the ground search, divers examined the ocean floor for evidence of Holloway's body. The searches were unsuccessful, and according to Aruban authorities she is most likely dead. On December 18, 2007, Aruban prosecutors announced that the case would be closed without any charges sought against the former suspects. The Aruban prosecutor's office reopened the case on February 1, 2008, after receiving video footage of Joran van der Sloot, under the influence of marijuana, making statements that Holloway died on the morning of May 30, 2005, and that her body was disposed of. Van der Sloot has since denied that what he said was true.
Holloway's family has criticized Aruban investigators throughout the search for a perceived lack of progress in finding her. Holloway's family called for a boycott of Aruba, which gained Alabama Governor Bob Riley's support, but failed to gain widespread backing.
Natalee Holloway was born October 21, 1986, in Clinton, Mississippi, to David Edward Holloway and Elizabeth Ann (Beth) Holloway. After her parents divorced in 1993, she and her younger brother Matt lived with her mother, who married George ("Jug") Twitty, a prominent Alabama businessman, in 2000. At the time of the disappearance, Dave Holloway was an insurance broker in Meridian, Mississippi, while Beth Twitty was employed by the Mountain Brook School System. After a brief separation, Jug Twitty filed divorce papers on December 29, 2006, stating the two have "such a complete incompatibility of temperament that the parties can no longer live together."
On Thursday, May 26, Holloway and 124 fellow graduates of Mountain Brook High School, located in a wealthy suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, arrived in Aruba for a five-day, unofficial graduation trip. The graduates were accompanied by seven chaperones. According to teacher and chaperone Bob Plummer, the chaperones met with the students each day to ensure nothing was wrong. However, Jodi Bearman—the chaperone who organized the trip—has stated, "the chaperones were not supposed to keep up with their every move."
Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig, who would head the investigation from mid-2005 until 2006, described the behavior of the Mountain Brook students, stating there was "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." Two of Holloway's classmates, Liz Cain and Claire Fierman, "agreed that the drinking was kind of excessive".
Holloway was last seen by her classmates leaving the Aruban bar and night club Carlos'n Charlie's around 1:30 a.m. on Monday, May 30. Holloway left with 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch student living in Aruba, and his two Surinamese friends, 21-year-old Deepak Kalpoe and 18-year-old Satish Kalpoe, in Deepak Kalpoe's car. Holloway, who had been scheduled to fly home later on May 30, did not appear for her return flight, and her packed luggage and passport were found in her Holiday Inn room. Aruban authorities initiated searches for Holloway throughout the island and surrounding waters but did not find her.
Searches for Holloway began soon afterwards. Hundreds of volunteers from Aruba and the United States joined the search. During the first days of the search, the Aruban government gave thousands of civil servants the day off to participate in the search. Fifty Dutch marines conducted an extensive search of the shoreline. Aruban banks raised $20,000 and provided other support to aid volunteer search teams. Beth Twitty was provided with free housing, initially at the Holiday Inn where she stayed in her daughter's former room, and then at the nearby Wyndham Hotel, where she stayed in the presidential suite.
Reports indicate Holloway did not appear on any security camera footage from her hotel's lobby during the course of the night, however, Beth Twitty has made varying statements as to whether the cameras were actually working that night. According to an April 19, 2006, statement made by her, the security cameras at the Holiday Inn were not working the night Holloway vanished. Twitty has made other statements indicating that they were working, and has stated so in her book. In any event, according to Police Commissioner Jan van der Straten, initial head of the investigation until his 2005 retirement, Holloway did not have to go through the lobby to return to her room.
The search for physical evidence was extensive and, on occasion, subject to false leads; for example, a possible blood sample taken from Deepak Kalpoe's car was tested but determined not to be blood.
There was heavy involvement by American law enforcement from the early days of the investigation. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated to reporters that the United States was in constant contact with Aruban authorities. Another State Department official indicated, "Substantial resources are being applied to this as they [Aruba officials] continue to ask for more.
Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested June 9, 2005, on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Holloway. Aruban law allows for arrest on serious suspicion from investigators; to continue holding the suspect in custody an increasing evidentiary burden must be met at periodic reviews. According to Dompig, the focus was on these three suspects from the "get-go". Dompig stated that surveillance of the three began three days after Holloway was reported missing, and included surveillance, telephone wire taps, and even monitoring of their e-mail. Dompig indicated pressure from Holloway's family caused them to stop their surveillance prematurely and to detain the three suspects.
As the investigation continued, on June 11, David Cruz, spokesman for the Aruban Minister of Justice, indicated that Natalee Holloway was dead and authorities knew the location of her body. Cruz later retracted the statement, saying he was a victim of a "misinformation campaign". That evening, Dompig alleged to the Associated Press that one of the young men detained admitted "something bad happened" to Holloway after the suspects took her to the beach, and that the suspect was leading police to the scene. The next morning prosecution spokeswoman Vivian van der Biezen refused to confirm or deny the allegation, simply stating that the investigation was at a "very crucial, very important moment".
On Friday, June 17, a fourth person, later identified as disc jockey Steve Gregory Croes, was also arrested. Van der Straten told the media that "Croes was detained based on information from one of the other three detainees." On June 22 Aruban police detained Paulus van der Sloot, Joran van der Sloot's father, for questioning; Paulus van der Sloot was arrested that same day. Both Paulus van der Sloot and Croes were ordered to be released on June 26.
During this period the remaining detained suspects' stories changed. All three suspects indicated that Van der Sloot and Holloway were dropped off at the Marriott Hotel beach near the fishermen's huts. Van der Sloot stated that he did not harm Holloway, but left her on the beach. According to Satish Kalpoe's attorney, David Kock, Van der Sloot called Deepak Kalpoe to tell the latter that he was walking home, and sent him a text message forty minutes later.
At some time during the interrogation Van der Sloot detailed a third account, that he was dropped off at home and Holloway was driven off by the Kalpoe brothers. Dompig discounted the story, stating:
This latest story [came] when [Van der Sloot] saw the other guys, the Kalpoes, were kind of finger-pointing in his direction, and he wanted to screw them also, by saying he was dropped off. But that story doesn't check out at all. He just wanted to screw Deepak. They had great arguments about this in front of the judge. Because their stories didn't match. This girl, she was from Alabama, she's not going to stay in the car with two black kids. We believe the second story, that they were dropped off by the Marriott.
On Monday, July 4, following hearings before a judge, Deepak and Satish Kalpoe were released, but Joran van der Sloot was detained for an additional sixty days.
On July 4, the Netherlands deployed three F-16 aircraft equipped with infrared sensors to aid in the search, without initial result. In March 2006 it was reported that satellite photos were being compared with photographs taken more recently (presumably from the F-16s) in an attempt to find unexpected shifts of ground that might be Holloway's grave.
A small pond near the Aruba Racquet Club close to the Marriott Hotel beach was partly drained between July 27 and July 30, 2005, after an individual ("the gardener) came forward. According to Jug Twitty, the gardener claimed to have seen Joran van der Sloot attempting to hide his face, driving into the Racquet Club with the two Kalpoes on the morning of May 30 between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. Nancy Grace described the gardener as "the man whose testimony cracks the case wide open". Another individual, "the jogger", claimed to have seen men burying a blonde-haired woman in a landfill during the afternoon of May 30. The police had searched the landfill in the days following Holloway's disappearance. The landfill was searched three times after the jogger's statements, including a search by the FBI with cadaver dogs. The searches were fruitless.
The FBI announced that Aruban authorities had provided it with documents, suspect interviews, and other evidence. A group from the Aruban police and prosecutor's office traveled to the FBI central laboratory at Quantico, Virginia, to consult with American investigators. After a piece of duct tape was found with strands of blond hair attached to it, samples were tested both at a Dutch lab and at Quantico. The FBI subsequently announced that the hair was not Holloway's.
The Kalpoe brothers were rearrested on August 26 along with another new suspect. According to his lawyer, 21-year-old Freddy Arambatzis was suspected of taking photographs of and having physical contact with an underage girl, an incident which allegedly occurred before the Holloway disappearance and in which Arambatzis's friends Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were supposedly involved. Van der Sloot's mother, Anita van der Sloot, stated, "It's a desperate attempt to get the boys to talk. But there is nothing to talk about". While no public explanation was then made for the Kalpoe rearrests, Dompig later said that it was an unsuccessful attempt to pressure the Kalpoe brothers into confessing.
On September 3, 2005, all four of the detained suspects were released by a judge despite the attempts of the prosecution to keep them in custody, on the condition that they remain available to police. Subsequently, on September 14, all restrictions on them were removed by the Combined Appeals Court of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.
In the months following his release, Joran van der Sloot gave several interviews, expanding upon his version of events, most notably a lengthy interview for On the Record which aired over three nights in March 2006. During the interview, Van der Sloot indicated that Holloway wanted to have sex with him, but he did not because he did not have a condom. Van der Sloot stated that Holloway wanted them to stay on the beach, but that he had to go to school in the morning. According to Van der Sloot, he was picked up by Satish Kalpoe at about 3:00 a.m., leaving Holloway sitting on the beach. In August 2005, David Kock, Satish Kalpoe's attorney, stated that his client had gone to sleep, and had not returned to drive Van der Sloot home. Van der Sloot stated he was somewhat ashamed to have left a young woman alone on the beach, albeit by her own request, and related that he was not truthful at first because he was convinced Holloway would soon turn up.
The FBI and Aruban authorities interviewed (or in some cases, re-interviewed) several of Holloway's fellow graduates in the United States in January 2006. On January 17, 2006, Aruban police searched sand dunes on the northwest coast of Aruba in search of Holloway's body, as well as areas close by the Marriott beach. Additional searches took place in March and April 2006, without result.
Shortly before leaving the case, Dompig gave an interview to CBS correspondent Troy Roberts, which was broadcast on March 25, 2006. In that interview, Dompig stated that he now believes Holloway probably died from self-consumed alcohol and/or drug poisoning, was not murdered, and that someone later hid her body. Dompig also stated that Aruba had spent about $3 million on the investigation, about 40% of the police operational budget. Dompig indicated that there is evidence that points to possession (though not necessarily use) of drugs by Holloway. Members of her family have denied drug use by Holloway.
On April 11, 2006, Dave Holloway published his book, co-authored with two writers, Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and Corruption in Paradise.
On May 17, 2006, another suspect, Guido Wever, the son of a former Aruban politician, was detained in the Netherlands on suspicion of assisting in the abducting, battering, and killing of Holloway. Wever was questioned for six days in Utrecht. While initially Aruban prosecutors sought his transfer to the island, he was instead released by agreement between the prosecutor and Wever's attorney.
At Aruba's request the Netherlands took over the investigation. A team of the Dutch National Police started work on the case in September 2006 following receipt of extensive case documentation in Rotterdam. On April 16, 2007, a combined Aruban-Dutch team began pursuing the investigation in Aruba.
On April 27, 2007, a new search involving some twenty investigators was launched at the Van der Sloot family residence in Aruba. Dutch authorities searched the yard and surrounding area, using shovels and thin metal rods to penetrate the dirt. Prosecution spokeswoman Van der Biezen stated, "The investigation has never stopped and the Dutch authorities are completely reviewing the case for new indications". A statement from the prosecutor's office related, "The team has indications that justify a more thorough search." Investigators did not comment on what prompted the new search, except that it was not related to Van der Sloot's book. According to Paulus van der Sloot, "nothing suspicious" was found, and all that was seized were diary entries of him and his wife, and his personal computer—which was subsequently returned.
According to Jossy Mansur, managing editor of Aruba's Diario newspaper, investigators were following up on statements made during early suspect interrogations regarding calls made and emails sent between the Kalpoe brothers and Joran van der Sloot. He also said investigators could be seen examining a laptop at the house.
On May 12, 2007, the Kalpoe family home was subject to an "inspection". The two brothers were detained for about an hour upon objecting to the entry by police and Dutch investigators, but were released when the authorities left. According to Kock, the brothers objected to the search because officials did not show them an order justifying the intrusion. A statement from Van der Biezen did not mention what, if anything, officials were searching for, but indicated nothing was removed from the home. A subsequent statement from Het Openbaar Ministerie van Aruba (the Aruban prosecutor's office) indicated that the purpose of the visit was to "get a better image of the place or circumstances where an offense may have been committed and to understand the chain of events leading to the offense".
In November 2007, Dave Holloway announced a new search for his daughter, probing the sea beyond the original depths in which earlier searches had taken place. That search, involving a vessel called the Persistence, was abandoned due to lack of funds at the end of February 2008 with nothing of significance found.
On November 30, 2007, a judge ordered the release of Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, despite attempts by the prosecution to extend their detention. The two brothers were released on the following day. The prosecution appealed the Kalpoes' release. That appeal was denied on December 5, 2007, with the court writing, "Notwithstanding expensive and lengthy investigations on her disappearance and on people who could be involved, the file against the suspect does not contain direct indications that Natalee passed away due to a violent crime". Van der Sloot was released without charge on December 7, 2007, due to lack of evidence implicating him as well as a lack of evidence that Holloway died as the result of a violent crime. The prosecution indicated it would not appeal.
On December 18, 2007, prosecutor Hans Mos officially declared the case closed, and that no charges would be filed due to lack of evidence. The prosecution indicated a continuing interest in the Kalpoes and Joran van der Sloot (though they are now no longer legally suspects), and alleged that one of the three, in a chat room message, had stated that Holloway was dead. This was hotly contested by Deepak Kalpoe's attorney, who stated that the prosecution, in translating from Papiamento to Dutch, had misconstrued a reference to a teacher who had drowned as one to Holloway. Attorney Ronald Wix also stated, "Unless (Mos) finds a body in the bathroom of one of these kids, there's no way in hell they can arrest them anymore."
On February 1, the Dutch media reported that Joran van der Sloot made a confession regarding the disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Later that day, Van der Sloot stated that he was secretly filmed by someone, but that he was telling the individual what he wanted to hear, and that he had no role in her disappearance. That same day, the Aruba prosecutor's office announced the reopening of the case.
The broadcast aired February 3, 2008. The broadcast included excerpts from footage recorded from hidden cameras and microphones in the vehicle of Patrick van der Eem, a Dutch businessman and ex-con, who gained Van der Sloot's confidence. Van der Sloot was seen smoking marijuana and stating that he was with Holloway when she became unresponsive. Van der Sloot stated that he attempted to revive her, without success. He said that he called a friend, who told Van der Sloot to go home and who disposed of the body. An individual reputed to be this friend, identified in the broadcast as Daury, has subsequently denied Van der Sloot's account, indicating that he was then in Rotterdam at school.
The Aruban prosecutor's office attempted to obtain an arrest warrant for Van der Sloot based on the tapes; however, a judge denied the request. The prosecutor appealed the denial, but the appeal failed on February 14, 2008. The appeals court held that the statements on the tape were inconsistent with evidence in the case and were insufficient to hold Van der Sloot.
On February 8, 2008, Van der Sloot met with Aruban investigators in the Netherlands. Van der Sloot denied that what he said on the tape was true, stating that he was under the influence of marijuana at the time. Van der Sloot indicated that he still maintains that he left Holloway behind on the beach.
In March 2008, news reports indicated that the tables had been turned on Van der Eem, who himself was secretly taped after giving an interview for Aruban TV. Van der Eem, under the impression that cameras had been turned off, kept talking. Van der Eem disclosed that he had been a friend of Van der Sloot for years (contradicting his statement on the De Vries show that he had met Van der Sloot in 2007), that he expects to become a millionaire off his involvement in the Holloway case, and that he knew the person who supposedly disposed of Holloway's body—and that Van der Sloot had asked him for two thousand euros to buy the man's silence. According to Dutch news service ANP, Van der Eem, who had already signed a book deal, "was furious" after learning of the taping, and "has threatened" the interviewer, who sought legal advice. Van der Eem's book Overboord (Overboard), co-written with E.E. Byars, was released (in Dutch) on June 25, 2008.
The De Vries broadcast was discussed in a seminar by Dutch legal psychologist Willem Albert Wagenaar, who indicated that the statements did not constitute a confession. Wagenaar criticized De Vries for broadcasting the material, stating that the broadcast made it harder to obtain a conviction, and had De Vries turned over the material to the authorities without broadcasting it, they would have held "all the trumps" in questioning Van der Sloot. Wagenaar opined that not only is the case not solved, it is not even clear that a crime was committed. Professor Crisje Brants, in the same seminar, also criticized De Vries's methods.
On November 30, 2006, Mammana was arrested by Federal authorities on charges of tax evasion and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On March 2, 2007, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that Mammana intended to plead guilty to the charges, accept forfeiture of significant assets, and pay the IRS $200,000 before sentencing. The paper indicated that Mammana's pledge towards the Holloway rewards had been $100,000. Mammana remains incarcerated.
On June 12, 2005, three days after the arrest of Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, and in response to a nationally-televised address by Aruba Prime Minister Nelson Oduber reaffirming Aruba's commitment to solving the case, Twitty stated, "I'm not getting any answers". She added, "I don't feel any further along than the day I got here". Twitty subsequently stated that her complaints were not addressed specifically at the Aruban government, but arose from frustration at not knowing what happened to her daughter.
On July 5, 2005, following the initial release of the Kalpoes, Twitty alleged, "Two suspects were released yesterday who were involved in a violent crime against my daughter", and referred to the Kalpoes as "criminals". A demonstration involving about two hundred Arubans took place that evening outside the courthouse in Oranjestad in anger over Twitty's remarks, with signs reading "Innocent until proven guilty" and "Respect our Dutch laws or go home". On July 8, 2005, and after Satish Kalpoe's attorney threatened legal action over Twitty's allegations, which he described as "prejudicial, inflammatory, libelous, and totally outrageous", Twitty read a statement that said her remarks were fueled by "despair and frustration" and that she "apologize to the Aruban people and to the Aruban authorities if I or my family offended you in any way".
Twitty has been criticized for what is perceived as excessive focus on Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers, to the exclusion of any other theory as to what happened to Holloway. According to the lawsuit filed by the Kalpoe brothers, she has (on various television programs) repeatedly accused them, and Joran van der Sloot, of "sexual assault" and "gang rape" of her daughter.
Twitty has also been criticized for making what have been deemed to be inconsistent and contradictory statements (for example, as to whether there were operating security cameras at the Holiday Inn). According to Julia Renfro, U.S.-born owner of the Aruban tourist-oriented newspaper, Aruba Today, who befriended Twitty in the early days of the investigation, Twitty pandered to tabloid TV and her "behavior was odd from the get-go". Renfro noted that "Twitty immediately concluded that her daughter had been kidnapped and made no effort to check hospitals or police", adding that within a couple of days, after fixing responsibility on Joran van der Sloot, Twitty "was telling TV interviewers that she knew her daughter had been gang-raped and murdered".
Following the airing of the De Vries program, Beth Twitty, adhering to the position that the tapes represent the way events transpired, told the New York Post that she believes her daughter might still be alive if Van der Sloot had called for help. She contends that Van der Sloot dumped Holloway's body, possibly alive, into the Caribbean. Twitty also alleges that the individual Joran van der Sloot supposedly called that evening was his father, Paulus, who, according to Twitty, "orchestrated what to do next". She, and Dave Holloway, alleged that Joran van der Sloot was receiving "special legal favors". After the court decision not to rearrest Van der Sloot was affirmed, Twitty stated, "I think that what I do take comfort in, his life is a living hell.
In response to Holloway's disappearance, Twitty founded the International Safe Travels Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization, designed "to inform and educate the public to help them travel more safely as they travel internationally". Twitty is working with Auburn University to develop a curriculum that she hopes "will be the foremost authority on travel education". Twitty has marketed herself as a for-fee speaker through the Nashville Speakers Bureau.
Twitty's book Loving Natalee: A Mother's Testament of Hope and Faith, written under the name "Beth Holloway", which she has resumed following her divorce from Jug Twitty, was released on October 2, 2007. The release was accompanied by a number of TV appearances, including a full hour on On the Record. A television movie, tentatively called The Natalee Holloway Story, based in part on Twitty's book, is to be made by LMN (formerly the Lifetime Movie Network) and is to be shown on that channel in 2009. Twitty continues to make television appearances when there are new developments in the case.
The Twittys and their supporters criticized a perceived lack of progress by Aruban police. The Twittys' own actions in Aruba were also criticized, and the Twittys were accused of actively stifling any evidence that might impugn Holloway's character by asking her fellow students to remain silent about the case and using their access to the media to push their own version of events. The Twittys denied this.
While initially the Twittys discouraged a travel boycott of Aruba, this changed by September 2005. Beth Twitty urged that persons not travel to Aruba and other Dutch territories because of what she stated were tourist safety issues. Alabama Governor Bob Riley, joined by the Twittys, urged Alabamians and others to boycott Aruba on November 8, 2005, in a news conference. Riley also wrote to other United States governors seeking their support—the governors of Georgia and Arkansas eventually joined in the call for boycott. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, city council voted to ask the governor of Pennsylvania to call for a boycott. The governor did not join in the call for a boycott, and no federal support was given.
The boycott was supported by some of Alabama's Congressional delegation, including both senators and Congressman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), who represents Mountain Brook. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) voiced his support for the boycott in a letter to the American Society of Travel Agents. Shelby stated, "For the safety, security and wellbeing of our citizens, I do not believe that we can trust that we will be protected while in Aruba". Prime Minister Oduber stated that Aruban investigators have done their best to solve the mystery, and responded to the call for boycott, "This is a preposterous and irresponsible act. We are not guerillas. We are not terrorists. We don't pose a threat to the United States, nor to Alabama."
Members of the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association, the Aruba Tourism Authority, the Aruba Hospitality and Security Foundation, the Aruban Chamber of Commerce and government figures, including Public Relations Representative Ruben Trapenberg, formed an "Aruba Strategic Communications Task Force" to respond collectively to what they perceived to be unfounded and/or negative portrayals of the island. The group issued press releases and sent representatives to appear in news media. They joined the Aruban government in opposing the calls for a boycott of the island.
Despite an unsuccessful attempt by the Dr. Phil show to condition release of the tapes on Aruban authorities appearing on their show, Aruban police and the FBI obtained the original of the tape, and provided copies to the media. In the version of the tapes provided by Aruban authorities, Kalpoe appears to say "No, she didn't. The Dutch forensic institute investigated the credibility of the tapes, and concluded that the version aired on the Dr. Phil show was a manipulated version of the original, and that Kalpoe actually said "No, she didn't," followed by, "You'd be surprised how simple it would have been." Beth Twitty, though, continued to cite the tapes as support of her allegations of sexual assault against Joran van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers.
In December 2006, the Kalpoes filed a slander and libel suit against Dr. Phil and Skeeters (who died in January 2007) in Los Angeles. Beth Twitty and Dave Holloway responded by filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the Kalpoes in the same venue. The wrongful death suit was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction on June 1, 2007; the libel and slander case remains pending. An earlier lawsuit had been filed in New York City by the parents against Paulus and Joran van der Sloot and served on them on a visit to New York. The case had been dismissed in August 2006 as filed in an inconvenient forum.
On November 10, 2005, Paulus van der Sloot won an unjust detention action against the Aruban government, clearing him as a suspect and allowing him to retain his government contract. The elder Van der Sloot then brought a second action, seeking monetary damages for himself and his family because of his false arrest. The action was initially successful, but the award of damages was reversed on appeal.
According to interviews done in preparation for the film, Aruban authorities had been systematically obstructed in their investigation by the FBI and other American authorities. They also indicate that within a day of Holloway being declared missing, a medjet, unauthorized by Aruban authorities, had arrived on Aruba and had remained for several days. They further indicate that, while the purpose of the medjet was not even known to its crew and medical personnel, it was in fact to spirit Holloway off the island if she were freed from a drug house in Oranjestad. Holloway's departure was to be covert and without notice to local authorities.
The article states that Renfro and Beth Twitty received a phone call from an unknown woman on June 2, 2005. That woman was offering information about Holloway's location and the information that Holloway was still alive but was unwilling to return to her mother. Further information was offered for $4,000. Twitty was unwilling to pay more than $1,000 for the information, and in fact did not pay anything. Believing there was a good chance of finding Holloway, Renfro and another American went to the drug house where Holloway supposedly was, bringing money. However, they found that Jug Twitty had already been to the area, spreading "a lot of uproar and panic in the direct vicinity", and nothing could be accomplished. They blamed Jug Twitty for the failure. The same story, in less detail, appears in the Vanity Fair article.
Further, according to Amigoe's report on the interviews, Aruban authorities were obstructed at the highest level in their attempts to investigate Holloway's relatives, and they received very limited cooperation in their attempts to question Holloway's fellow graduates.
U.S. television networks devoted much air time to the search for Holloway, the investigation of her disappearance, and rumors surrounding the case. Greta Van Susteren, host of On The Record on Fox News, and Nancy Grace on CNN's Headline News were among the most prominent television personalities to devote time to the incident. Van Susteren's almost continuous coverage of the story caused On The Record to get its best ratings to date, while Grace's show became the cornerstone of the new "Headline Prime" block on Headline News, which ran two episodes (a live show and a repeat) every night during prime-time. As the case wore on, much of the attention was given to Beth Twitty and her statements. Aruban government spokesman Ruben Trapenberg stated, "The case is under a microscope, and the world is watching." Locally, the Aruban press published extensive news on the story in Dutch, English, and Papiamento.
The saturation of coverage triggered a backlash among some critics who believe that the extensive coverage of the Holloway case validates the theory known as missing white woman syndrome, which argues that missing-person cases involving white women and girls receive disproportionate attention in the media compared with cases involving males or non-white people. CNN ran a segment criticizing the amount of coverage their competitors gave to the story despite what they perceived to be a lack of new items to report, with CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper calling the coverage "downright ridiculous".
Early in the case, political commentator and columnist Arianna Huffington wrote, "If you were to get your news only from television, you'd think the top issue facing our country right now is an 18-year-old girl named Natalee who went missing in Aruba. Every time one of these stories comes up, like, say, Michael Jackson, when it's finally over I think, what a relief, now we can get back to real news. But we never do."
In March 2008, El Diario commented, "But if doubts persist about cases involving missing Latinas, there are reasons why. These cases rarely receive the attention and resources we see given to other missing persons. The English-language media, for example, appear to be focused on the stories of missing white women, such as with the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba. Cases of missing Latina and African American women often remain faceless, when they are even covered."
CBS senior journalist Danna Walker stated, "There is criticism that it is only a story because she is a pretty blonde–and white –and it is criticism that journalists are taking to heart and looking elsewhere for other stories. But it is a big story because it is an American girl who went off on an adventure, and didn't come back. It is a huge mystery, it is something people can identify with."
Good Morning America anchor Chris Cuomo, though, was unapologetic of his program's extensive coverage of the Holloway case. "I don't believe it's my role to judge what people want to watch ... If they say, 'I want to know what happened to this girl' ... I want to help them find out."
Holloway's family, though, instead criticized the lessening of coverage of the young woman's disappearance. The saturation coverage of Holloway's disappearance by the American media was largely eclipsed in late August 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. Beth Twitty and Dave Holloway alleged that Aruba took advantage of the extensive coverage of the hurricane to release the suspects.
Lamented Dave Holloway in his book,
Hurricane Katrina had left the door open for the boys to be sent on their way with little publicity and few restrictions because it took the world's focus off of Natalee, but only for a brief time. The huge amount of publicity had waned and, during that time of quiet for us, Joran and the Kalpoe brothers were sent home. . . . All of the news shows that had followed our every move only a day before had now become fixated on the next big ratings grabber: the victims of Hurricane Katrina.However, the deadline for judicial review of Joran van der Sloot's detention was set long before the hurricane.