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Aruban police again search landfill for Holloway

Police and volunteers in Aruba continued picking through a landfill Sunday where a witness claimed he saw men dumping a female body two days after an Alabama teenager vanished.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Police and volunteers continued picking through a landfill Sunday where a witness claimed he saw men dumping a female body two days after an Alabama teenager vanished.

The landfill is on the southern part of the Dutch Caribbean island, the opposite side from where 18-year-old Natalee Holloway was last seen in the early hours of May 30.

Crews stopped the search late Saturday without finding anything, but resumed on Sunday, said said Tim Miller, director of Texas EquuSearch, which is coordinating the landfill search.

The witness claimed to be dropping off trash when he saw the men dumping the body on the afternoon of June 1, Miller said.

“He said he saw a face, blond hair and a woman’s chest, and that the body was dumped and covered,” Miller said.

The witness could not identify the men but said they were driving a light colored jeep, Miller said.

Landfill had been searched before
Police spokesman Edwin Comenencia said police searched the landfill after receiving the tip in days following Holloway’s disappearance, but found nothing. He said the witness recently approached Holloway’s family, who asked for another search.

Holloway’s family has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to her safe return, and a separate $100,000 award for information that help solves the mystery. It was unclear if the witness had been seeking the reward.

Miller said the witness was trying to guide search crews to the location where he believed the body was dumped.

Meanwhile, Holloway's mother has left Aruba and returned home to Alabama after spending nearly two months on the island. According to a relative, it was “very difficult” for Beth Holloway Twitty to leave without knowing her daughter’s fate, and she plans to return soon to keep the investigation alive.

Pond draining ends

On the opposite side of Aruba, police ordered crews to stop draining a pond near the Marriott hotel, Comenencia said. They found no clues to Holloway’s disappearance, he said.

Crews began draining the pond Tuesday, but it was still several feet deep on Saturday. Comenencia declined to say why investigators decided to stop draining it.

The pond became an area of interest after another witness claimed he saw three young men, including a Dutch youth detained in the case, driving near it the night Holloway disappeared.

Holloway’s stepfather, George Twitty, who was at a nearby hotel waiting for results of the search, said police asked the family not to watch as they worked behind a fence to clear the water.

“It’s the first time the fire department, the police and other authorities have collaborated on such a huge search,” the stepfather said Wednesday. “So they must know something. ... There’s so much commotion, they must have a lead.”

Holloway Twitty, the mother, also said she was hopeful.

“I’m very encouraged about moving forward and hopefully finding some answers that we’ve been waiting for for a long time, and everyone has been,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” before her departure from Aruba.

DNA test comes back negative
The FBI said Thursday that strands of hair found in Aruba did not come from Holloway.

The hair, which was found attached to duct tape on July 17, was subjected to genetic testing at the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., and the results showed they did not come from the 18-year-old, said FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela.

"The results were negative," said Orihuela. "It wasn't Natalee's hair."

A park ranger found the duct tape while collecting trash on Aruba's northeast coast — the opposite side of the island from where Holloway was last seen in public.

Testing was also conducted on a sample of the hair at a crime lab in the Netherlands, but the results were not immediately available.

New witnesses come forward
Saturday’s activity came a day after Holloway’s stepfather said two new witnesses had come forward with information about the night the 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Ala., disappeared.

One witness told investigators that he saw Joran van der Sloot, the 17-year-old Dutch youth who has been detained as the main suspect, driving to a tennis club across the road from the Marriott around 2:30 a.m. the night Holloway disappeared, Twitty said.

The witness said van der Sloot tried to hide his face with his hands as he drove to the Racquet Club with two Surinamese brothers, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe, Twitty said. The Kalpoe brothers were detained as suspects and later released.

The stepfather said the account is significant because it places the three individuals near the hotel beach where van der Sloot says he left Holloway alone the last night she was seen in public.

“What’s interesting is the time — 2:30 a.m. — when the three were supposedly on their way home,” said Twitty, referring to their previous accounts to investigators.

The witness, a gardener whose name was not disclosed, gave his account to investigators Friday, Twitty said.

Discrepancies in stories
The Kalpoe brothers first told police that they and van der Sloot dropped Holloway at her hotel around 2 a.m. the morning of May 30. Later, they said they had lied to protect their friend and that they had dropped the Dutch youth and Holloway at a beach near the hotel.

A second new witness told a private investigator hired by Holloway’s family that she saw van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers drive into the Racquet Club three times that same night. The woman, who lives nearby, has not yet spoken with investigators, he said.

Aruban authorities did not comment on the stepfather’s statements.

An attorney for van der Sloot, Richie Kock, said authorities had not told him about the new witnesses. Lawyers for the Kalpoe brothers were not immediately available for comment.

Aruban authorities said this week that they have dispatched a prosecutor to consult with the FBI and brought in experts from the Netherlands as they investigate the disappearance.

The family on Monday increased the reward for information leading to the young woman’s safe return to $1 million, from $200,000.

No one has been charged in the case, and van der Sloot is the only suspect still detained.

Holloway vanished after an evening of eating, drinking and dancing at a nightclub which she left with the three young men, hours before she was to catch a flight home at the end of a graduation trip with 124 classmates.