PALM BEACH, Aruba — A week has passed since Natalee Holloway disappeared during a five-day trip to Aruba with more than 100 other classmates from Mountain Brook High School, near Birmingham, Ala., to celebrate her graduation.
NBC News’ Martin Savidge reports on the ongoing investigation and mystery surrounding her disappearance.
What is the current status of the investigation?
Well, there are two parts of the investigation. One is the search and then trying to determine what happened to Natalee Holloway. The other is the physical effort to try to locate her.
On the first front, it looks more and more like a criminal investigation. We have two people under arrest and three other people that are considered persons of interest.
The two under arrest have only been identified as former security guards at a hotel near where Natalee Holloway had been staying. Other than that, authorities aren’t giving us much information on the connection of those two men to her particular case.
I did talk to the mother of one of the suspects and she denies that her son has any involvement whatsoever with Natalee Holloway.
As to the persons of interest — they are being questioned every day. They are not under arrest. And they are the three people in whose company Natalee was last seen on the night that she disappeared.
They told police that she was dropped off at the hotel. Authorities apparently have reason to doubt that story.
Then there is the search effort. It is a massive effort — on Sunday there were 50 Dutch Marines searching the north shore area. That is a very desolate and very rugged terrain in Aruba. They did not find anything.
Today we are being told that as of 2 o’clock this afternoon, every civil servant on the island of Aruba that has a non-essential job — in other words who isn’t keeping the lights or the water on — will be told to go out and join the search effort. That’s about 2,000-3,000 people.
What does the massive search say about Aruba’s concern for the fate of this young girl?
Well, they are extremely concerned on two levels. One is the heart-felt level. The loss of a young girl who came here on vacation is taken extremely seriously.
There is also a great deal of national pride. Tourism is relatively new to Aruba. Only in the last twenty years or so have things really developed. They take a great deal of pride that they have a beautiful country and a very safe country.
Violent crime is virtually unheard of here. Last year there weretwo murders, I believe, and those were considered to be drug related and that was it. There were maybe six rapes. When you are talking about an island nation with so many visitors, that is considered an extremely low crime rate.
Eighty percent of the tourists who come to Aruba are from the United States. So, they know that the U.S. and American tourists are vital to their economy. They also know that this story is big in the national media, that their vital tourist industry is harmed in the minds of the very people that they want to come visit.
So, it is two-pronged: they are gravely concerned for the welfare of a young girl and they also are concerned for their own livelihood.
Why is it that the story of this one girl has had such international reach?
Well, I guess because it’s trouble in paradise, for one. It is the place that people go to get away from the problems of the world, not believing it is where you are going to find them.
Aruba in the minds of many Americans is considered a very safe place, which it is.
But, now you have this story of a beautiful young girl, who is full of so much promise. She came here to celebrate that she is moving on to the next stage in her life and this tragedy occurred.
And, it is truly a mystery. We still don’t know what happened. Did she go off on her own accord? Was she abducted by somebody? Has she been harmed in some way? Or is she somehow incapacitated or unable to communicate where she is? I think that all of those factors combine to make a story at the beginning of summer when we all start to think about places to go and things to do.
How is the family handling the situation?
The family remains in seclusion right now, as least as far as access to the media is concerned. They are still on the island and are active in the search for their daughter. The father goes out every single day overseeing search efforts and the mother yesterday was going around handing out fliers.
There are questions about the high school group Natalee was traveling with coming from Aruban authorities. One of the questions they ask is, on the night that Natalee disappeared, during the very early hours of Monday morning — about 1:30 a.m., many of her friends saw her leaving with these three strangers.
Yet, the police wonder, why did no one say anything? Why didn’t anyone intervene and say that this is not the right thing to be doing? They ask where are the chaperones? Unfortunately, those questions remain unanswered.