Aruban police reportedly suspect missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway may not have been killed but died from complications involving alcohol and perhaps drugs during a high school trip in the Dutch Caribbean island.
Witnesses have come forward who say the then-18-year-old Holloway had drugs in her possession and was drinking heavily on May 30, the day she disappeared, Gerald Dompig, deputy chief of police for Aruba, told CBS television's "48 Hours Mystery" program, which released a partial transcript of the interview Thursday.
"We feel strongly that she probably went into shock or something happened to her system with all the alcohol — maybe on top of that, other drugs, which either she took or they gave her — and that she ... just collapsed," he said in the interview, scheduled for broadcast on Saturday.
A cover-up may have ensued after the death, he said. Dompig specified that witnesses did not see Holloway taking drugs, only that she had them in her possession.
"After 10 months of investigation, including hearing many witnesses, we have strong indications that Natalee has died," Dompig told The Associated Press.
Dompig said she could have either died in a nonviolent manner, by her going into shock or that she collapsed due to her body's reaction to effects from alcohol or drugs, or she was killed.
Holloway was last seen leaving a bar with Dutch national Joran van der Sloot and Surinamese brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. No one has been charged in her disappearance — though Dompig told AP that the three remain suspects — and the investigation has produced a number of false leads.
Dompig said searches for her body in sand dunes along the island's northern tip, at a beach close to the Marriott Resort — where van der Sloot said he last left Holloway — and a salt pond near the hotel, were ongoing and will continue in the coming weeks.
"We have already started, low profile, and our main priority is to find forensic evidence," he told AP, noting searches were based on tips.
Dompig told CBS investigators believe that someone took steps to carefully hide Holloway's body — perhaps burying her twice.
In January, investigators searched sand dunes in the same northern area with more than 50 officers. At the time, Dompig said police have considered the dunes a place of interest since the investigation began and had searched them before.
Beth Twitty, Holloway's mother, could not be immediately reached Thursday for comment.