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Tip launches new search for Holloway

A new search for the Alabama teen is underway while prosecutors hope to use the Dutch version of "America's Most Wanted" to uncover more clues to her disappearance. Dan Abrams talks with an Aruban jouurnalist, profiler Clint van Zandt & analyst Susan Filan.

Dutch authorities are digging in sand dunes near the north part of the island, based on what could be a crucial new tip about missing Alabama teen Natalee Holloway.  A new witness who police say they're taking seriously claims to know where her body is and has pointed police there. 

Holloway, 18, disappeared May 30 while on a high school graduation trip in Aruba. 

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, "ABRAMS REPORT": Julia, What do we know about the search? 

JULIA RENFRO, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “ARUBA TODAY”:  Two days ago, we had a group of four individuals from the Dutch Forensic Institute who came in with cadaver dogs and special equipment to search in a specific area that has been pointed out by a witness that came forward, actually several months ago.

ABRAMS:  So why now?  I mean you know you have Chief Dompig talking about this weeks ago.  Why did it take them so long to start doing this? 

RENFRO:  Well actually, you know there's been thousands of tips that have come in and you know the police have sorted through them and taken in what is relative and what is not, and right after they received a tip, the Aruban authorities, together with 50 to approximately 80 officers, searched that particular area that was pointed out by this individual, and they were not able to come up with anything.  But they didn't give up and they asked an American group to come in who also searched areas in and around there, and they were unable to come up with anything. 

During that point, Commissioner Dompig flew over to Holland with the information from the witness, I would imagine a taped interview, I really don't know, and it was studied by the Dutch Forensic Institute and it was decided that yes they were going to help and they came in with equipment necessary to search for the remains of this young lady. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  So here's what Dompig said on “48 Hours”.  The witness wanted to talk about the fact that he knew more about the whereabouts of Natalee concerning a specific burial location.  The information this person gave was too specific to just be a story that was just made up by someone.  What you're telling us is that after they got the information from the witness, they went to the exact location that the person was talking about and they found nothing?

RENFRO:  Right.  That is correct. 

ABRAMS:  Dompig also said when he was asked, do you believe Natalee Holloway's body is recoverable?  He said yes, I do.  You believe Natalee Holloway is somewhere on this island?  He again said, I do.  So when we ask the question about what took so long, what you're saying is they actually did it immediately, then they did a follow-up, and now they're just doing effectively what is a third follow-up? 

RENFRO:  Absolutely.  From the way I understand it, the Aruban authorities did not have the proper equipment, nor the cadaver dogs to do this search thoroughly.  They did do it themselves, thinking that, you know, this was going to be an easy task, but they later found out it wasn't. 

ABRAMS:  Clint, what do you make of this?

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER:  Well as you say Dan, this is the third, fourth, or fifth wave of searchers that have been in there.  As you remember, cadaver dogs were there from day one.  The FBI offered GPR, ground-penetrating radar, that can go down at least 100 feet into the sand.  It can see down into the sand.  The FBI offered that day one.  That capability has been brought in a couple of different times.  So, you know it's pretty soon, every pound of sand on that island is going to be sifted through.

ABRAMS:  So why is Dompig referring to this as the last critical phase, the critical last phase and he's saying that this case is going to be solved?

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:   Well I found his remarks bizarre from the start and here's the difficulty: Let's say this time they are lucky, and I certainly hope they are and they do recover her body, it's 10 months now.  So what are they going to be able to tell by her physical remains?  It's basically going to be you know forgive me, bones. 

She's going to be very badly decomposed.  It's going to be difficult to tell whether she was sexually assaulted, and what the manner of death was.  Dompig has made these kind of reckless remarks that he thinks that she was drugged and it was an overdose.  How are we going to tell that from the remains? I think he's exonerating himself and his investigation with his remarks. 

ABRAMS:  Julia, what do you make of that? 

RENFRO:  Well, I really couldn't say that at all.  My understanding is, is this particular witness as well as other witnesses, as I mentioned earlier, thousands of tipsters have called in, and they've come to the conclusion, based on information that they received from statements that Natalee had drugs in her possession.

FILAN:  But drugs in her possession doesn't mean that they were in her system and it doesn't mean it caused her death. 

ABRAMS:  And here's what Dompig said, "We have statements claiming that she had drugs.  We do not have proof that Natalee used drugs, but the witnesses saw her with drugs in her possession." 

Again, my point at the time was unless they have somehow proof that this was related to her death, I'm not really confident how or not certain how relevant it is.

RENFRO:  We don't know what this tipster/witness has actually said.  We don't know his involvement whatsoever in this, so to judge what Dompig says, it's a little hard to do, because we don't know how involved this particular person was in her disappearance. 

ABRAMS:  Well, we do know that if what you just said is true and that is that they went and they dug and they found nothing in the exact area where this person claims that the body was specifically buried, then the person is not providing as much quality information as the person claimed. 

RENFRO:  I'll agree with you there, and it's my understanding they just didn't have either the equipment, personnel or technology to search this area in its entirety, and I've been up there. Maybe Clint Van Zandt has been up there as well, and it's just a bunch of white sand for a long time. And if this burial happened in the middle of the night, the exact pinpoint would be very difficult for anyone to say. 


ABRAMS:  Dompig is saying we're going to go back and we're going to search some more in these dunes where the person says the body was.


ABRAMS:  One of my producers pointed out before, you know doesn't that then sort of tip off the person who may have buried the body there to go back and get rid of it?

VAN ZANDT:  Well, of course, you'd like somebody to come wandering back, wouldn't you?  Now remember Dompig said she was buried hastily and then dug up and reburied, so is this tipster taking us to the first gravesite or the second gravesite?

ABRAMS:  All right.