updated 6/30/2005 10:18:57 PM ET 2005-07-01T02:18:57

Aruba’s attorney general said Thursday she could prosecute a case in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway even if the Alabama teenager’s body is not found.

Caren Janssen also said investigators have found no evidence to suggest that the 18-year-old Holloway, who disappeared May 30, was dead.

“There are no traces or facts to come to the conclusion that Natalee is no longer alive,” Attorney General Caren Janssen told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t prosecute without a body. It’s difficult but not impossible.”

Three young men remain in custody in Holloway’s disappearance, but none has been charged.

Aruban officials have said previously a murder conviction is possible without a body, but the case requires strong evidence such as a confession, reliable statements and forensic evidence of wrongdoing. Aruba is a Dutch protectorate and as such operates under Dutch law.

Janssen declined to reveal Thursday what other evidence investigators might have.

Massive searches by FBI agents, Dutch Marines, Aruban police and thousands of islanders have produced no trace of Holloway, who was celebrating her graduation from high school in Mountain Brook, Ala., when she disappeared.

Dutch teenager Joran van der Sloot, 17, and his friends, Surinamese brothers Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, were the last people seen with Holloway the night she vanished. The three were questioned in the days after the disappearance but were not arrested until June 9.

Two other men detained in the case — van der Sloot’s father, Paul, and party boat disc jockey Steven Croes — have been released.

Holloway’s stepfather, George “Jug” Twitty, said the family was not surprised by Janssen’s comments and was not losing hope the truth would be found.

“We may have no physical evidence, but there is a lot of other evidence of what may have happened in this case,” Twitty told the AP.

Janssen, who has been tightlipped during the investigation, said she had decided to speak out because “there has been so much misinformation in the American press.”

“I’m the lead prosecutor and I want to show that we are not a bunch of cowboys here,” she said.

Janssen declined to be more specific about what she believed had been reported inaccurately.

Paul van der Sloot, an island judicial official, was arrested June 23 but released a few days later when a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to hold him.

Dad's legal advice
Janssen said the elder van der Sloot gave his son and the Kalpoe brothers legal advice, telling them that “without a body there is no case.”

“He confirmed to me that he told them that a few days after she disappeared,” Janssen told the AP.

Janssen also alleged Paul van der Sloot, a 52-year-old judge in training in Aruba, obstructed authorities’ investigation by asking one of his son’s friends, who had been interrogated, what he told police.

But Janssen said Paul van der Sloot was detained for being a suspect in the disappearance, not for obstructing the investigation.

Calls to the van der Sloot residence Thursday seeking comment were not answered.

A group of volunteer rescuers from Texas, which began searches Saturday, began a partial pullout from Aruba on Wednesday, with nine of the 27 volunteers returning home. But the group said it planned to bring in replacements for those who had left.

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