Image: Natalee Holloway poster
Leslie Mazoch  /  AP file
Natalee Holloway went missing while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba in May 2005.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 11/16/2010 6:53:53 PM ET 2010-11-16T23:53:53

Dutch forensic experts are testing a piece of bone found on the Caribbean island of Aruba to see if it comes from missing American teenager Natalee Holloway, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Experts first will establish whether the bone is human before comparing its DNA to that of Holloway, said Netherlands Forensic Institute spokeswoman Inge Oevering.

Holloway, then 18, disappeared in 2005 while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba. Her remains have never been found, despite extensive police searches. If the bone turns out to be from Holloway, it would be the first concrete evidence of her death.

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Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, who faces separate murder charges in Peru, is the last person seen with Holloway and is suspected in her disappearance.

Video: Joran van der Sloot Behind Bars (on this page)

The Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported Tuesday the bone was found by tourists on a beach last Friday. The newspaper reported it was a human lower jaw bone, but Oevering said the bone was still being analyzed to establish whether it was human.

The bone was found on a beach near the Caribbean resort island's Phoenix Hotel, close to the Bubali swamp, the paper said.

Van der Sloot, who was the last person seen with Holloway before the girl vanished during a high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005, has previously claimed that he dumped her body in the swamp.

Van der Sloot has publicly said he killed the teen and then retracted his confession several times.

Among his explanations, Van der Sloot has claimed that Holloway accidentally fell from a balcony and that he disposed of her body in a swamp. He also told an undercover reporter that she died unexpectedly while they were kissing and he dumped her body in the ocean.

Peruvian authorities are holding Van der Sloot on charges that he killed another woman, Stephany Flores, in his hotel room in Lima, Peru, on May 30 — five years to the day after Holloway's disappearance.

If convicted on murder and robbery charges in Peru, Van der Sloot is likely to be sentenced to between 15 and 35 years in prison, court spokesman Luis Gallardo told The Associated Press in June.

A federal grand jury in Alabama has also indicted Van der Sloot on charges of wire fraud and extortion in relation to the Holloway case. U.S. law enforcement officials say Van der Sloot extorted $10,000 from Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty, after offering to help find Holloway's body in Aruba, then used the money to travel to Lima.

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De Telegraaf said that tourists spotted the bone in the sand on Riba Beach. Police were notified after they handed it in at their hotel's front desk.

De Telegraaf said one molar was intact on the jawbone. Investigators will compare the tooth with Holloway's dental records.

Other bones which police on the island have examined for links to the Holloway case have turned out to be from animals.

Van der Sloot was arrested twice in connection to Holloway's disappearance, but released both times for a lack of evidence.

NBC News' Nanette Van Der Laan, The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Video: Is bone found Natalee Holloway's?

  1. Closed captioning of: Is bone found Natalee Holloway's?

    >>> forensic experts are testing what could be a new clue in the natalee holloway case. last week, a local paper reported tourists found a human jawbone on a beach. michelle kosinski is following developments from miami. what are you learning, michelle?

    >> hi, contessa. well, what's being reported in the dutch press and they have been talking to authorities in aruba and holland, a tourist found it on the beach. this was friday and it was found near a hotel that is also near this swamp and the swamp figures into this story because that's where in his latest version of what happened to natalee holloway , the chief suspect in that case said he disposed of her body. in that swamp. so these tourists find something that looks like a human jawbone. according to reports, one molar still attached. what's important is that this isn't even proven human at this point. if it is proven human and not animal, they will use dna testing to determine if it is natalee holloway . is this a long shot? yes, and this has happened multiple times before where people found something, whether a strand of hair. at one point, tourists found what they thought was skeleton and it was a pile of rocks. every time there's a report out of this island on this case, you have to take it with a grain of salt. the good thing is that people still keep their eyes open and when they see something that looks unusual, they still think of the natalee holloway case five years later still very much unsolved.

Timeline: The Natalee Holloway case

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