Three and a half months ago, 18-year-old Natalee Holloway stepped into a car with Dutchman Joran van der Sloot and Surinamese brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe and drove off into the night, on what may well have been her last night on earth. We all know the story, one that cable television has told and retold: pretty, smart high school graduate goes missing while on a school trip to the happy island of Aruba. On the last night of her trip Natalee visited a well-known tourist trap and bar, Carlos ‘N Charlie’s. Any local worth his salt can tell you that women can be found there who might drink a little too much. In a worst case scenario, a woman might even be convinced to accompany complete strangers on a trip around the island, perhaps visiting upon herself a horror that she could never have anticipated.
While recently in Aruba, I spoke to people who told me about predators on certain exotic islands who look for young and not so young women that are spending their last night on such an island paradise. The game plan, so I’m told, is to find an intoxicated woman, or get a woman drunk, or to drug the woman. Then while intoxicated, drugged, or both; the victim, with little or no strength or ability to resist, is next taken to a lonely location, possibly gang raped, and then dumped back at or near her hotel. Were such a victim to report that she had been assaulted, local authorities would then tell her that the investigation would require her to miss her plane ride home or her cruise ship away from the island. Further, the victim is told that her life will be turned upside down by the subsequent investigation. Most women get the message – accept your fate and move on with your life. Score: predators 1, victim 0.
In the case of Natalee Holloway, I saw a confession that Joran van der Sloot had allegedly given to four Aruban police officers, one of many of the so called confessions or different versions of his story, concerning the night Natalee disappeared. In this statement van der Sloot said Deepak Kalpoe sexually assaulted, murdered, and buried Natalee. In another statement Joran allegedly said that he took Natalee to his house (he lives in an apartment detached from his parent’s residence in a middle class area of Aruba) where he had sex with the teenage girl while she was semiconscious. Joran then said he took Natalee to a beach close to her hotel, near the so-called “fisherman’s hut,” where he allegedly left her passed out or asleep on the sand. (I’ve visited the “fisherman’s hut”; it is in fact a few small shacks, where fishermen clean their catch. These shacks provide no protection from the elements or from any potential predator or assailant.)
Then, of course, there’s Joran, Deepak, and Satish’s original story, that they dropped her off back in front of her hotel. Lies, lie, and more lies. What’s the truth guys?
We now know that Deepak, who referred to Natalee Holloway as “a slut” in a recent tape recorded interview, also allegedly stated on tape that he, his brother Satish and Joran van der Sloot all had sex with Natalee the night she disappeared. Deepak also acknowledged that Ecstasy is used to drug women in Aruba.
Natalee’s mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, a woman who only wants to know what happened to her daughter, told me that Joran had provided police with intimate physical details concerning Natalee that would support some aspects of his confession to having had sex with Natalee. I am quick to acknowledge that consensual sex has nothing to do with any allegation of murder. At age 18, Natalee could, if in full control of her mind and body, have a relationship with Jordan and even the Kalpoe brothers, but do the authorities seriously think that she had the ability to say no that night?
Most know the story of Joran’s father, the local Aruban lawyer and judge-in-training Paulus van der Sloot. Although the elder van der Sloot was at home the night Natalee disappeared, his wife was in Holland and can only support her son by suggesting what a good boy he is – notwithstanding that other women have now allegedly come forward to say that they had also been sexually victimized by one or more of the suspects in this matter. Paulus van der Sloot supposedly told his son and both Kalpoe brothers, “No body, no crime.” Father does know best sometimes, and the senior van der Sloot, Esq., may well be right in this case.
There are about as many opinions in this matter as there are points on a compass, but one thing is as clear as the crystal clear Caribbean waters that surround Aruba. The investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Natalee Holloway has so far produced no overt evidence of a crime, no clearly identifiable crime scene, no obvious victim of a crime, and definitely no body. Although Joran and the Kalpoe brothers have recently been in and out of jail so many times that they know all the guards by first name, the three have again been released and some Aruban officials suggest that this case is now over, while others continue to monitor communications between Joran and the Kalpoes, and suggest that the investigation is still very active.
As predicted when I was in Aruba, as soon as Joran van der Sloot was released last week his father quickly got him off the island and flew with him to Holland, where Joran supposedly began college. Before the summer of 2005, plans were for Joran to attend school in Florida. Evidently, however, he realized that he might not be welcomed with open arms by the U.S. college community while he remained a suspect in Natalee’s disappearance.
For the sake of the many psychics and other true believers in the paranormal that read this column, Natalee’s parents did consult with a psychic, one who took many pages of notes in a nighttime telepathic-like conversation with Natalee, but who somehow neglected to ask Natalee where she was at that time. A number of self-identified psychics have written to me, offering to help with two even telling me specific locations where Natalee or her body could be found. When I was in Aruba I visited both of these sites, but I found nothing, period, that would suggest that Natalee had ever been at either of these locations.
So now what? Joran is off to college in the land of windmills and tulips. The Kalpoe brothers running are free in Aruba with Deepak continuing to hang out at Carlos ‘N Charlie’s where he, his brother, and Joran first picked up Natalee. Old habits, even for 21-year-olds, die-hard.
The leads that have dried up in this case include the so-called witness who said he saw some men bury the body of a nude blond woman in the local landfill. He later failed a polygraph test concerning what he supposedly saw, and the search of the landfill was called off. I also watched an apparently well-meaning senior citizen from the States who appeared in Aruba to help in the search for Natalee with his “dousing for bodies’ device.” He walked back and forth across the sand on the northern end of the island with two “L shaped” metal rods in his hand that swung freely and then pointed out to sea. His invention was a battery-operated update of a divining rod that was first used to look for water in the mid 1500’s. He suggested that his device indicated that human remains were located one mile off shore in about 80 feet of water. Divers were unable to confirm the presence of any such remains under the “x” that was triangulated on a map of the nearby ocean.
It seems that everyone is now free, except Beth Holloway Twitty and the members of Natalee’s extended family. Deepak Kalpoe told me that the Natalee Holloway case would never be over, as long as Beth remained in Aruba. Like Joran, Beth too has left Aruba, this after having exhausted all her avenues of investigation. She is now left to daily question an investigation that took almost two weeks to get started, and one that has not been able to develop the evidence needed to hold anyone for Natalee’s disappearance, much less prosecute anyone. Beth alone now speaks for her daughter, a young girl who, it appears, can no longer speak for herself.
But what about Joran confessing to having sex with someone under the influence who couldn’t refuse his approach? Joran also said he left Natalee on the beach and that she was either passed out or asleep, hence unable to care for herself. These are, in fact, criminal misdemeanors in Aruba, but Joran is none-the-less off to college and far away from the investigation. Will he ever be prosecuted for even the crimes to which he has confessed, depending, that is, on which confession you consider? The Kalpoes and Joran van der Sloot have allegedly implicated each other in crimes against Natalee. Can these allegations be substantiated by police investigation? The answer rests with the Aruban authorities and the Dutch government that also has investigative responsibility in this matter. Should you have an opinion and be so disposed, you can write to Aruba’s Attorney General, Theresa Croes Fernandez-Pedra, at Havenstrat 2, Oranjestad, Aruba, or to the Minister of Justice in Holland, J.P.H. Donner, Schedeldockshaven 100, Oranjestad, Aruba Den Haag, Nederland.
“What do you think?” I’m often asked. I find it hard to believe that the last three men on this planet who were known to be with her don’t know what happened to Natalee. That’s Investigations 101 – keep it simple, go with the logical suspects and rule them in or out by investigation. In the case of Natalee Holloway, however, speculation, gut reactions, and “I believe” are not good enough. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is needed, and as Joran’s father and primary legal advisor told him early on, “No body, …”
I’ve provided this update for the many readers of Profiler’s Perspective that have asked about the status of the investigation. Those who no longer want to hear about the missing blond teenager, that’s fine – but as both a parent and a former FBI Agent who worked missing children cases, I can fully appreciate the anguish that her parents experience every waking moment, and the thoughts that they have to beat back as they fight to fall asleep each night. But what about you? Many of you have followed this case from the beginning and have shown a good grasp on the investigations. Do you think this case can still be solved; and if so, how?
Clint Van Zandt is an MSNBC analyst. He is the founder and president of Inc. Van Zandt and his associates also developed , a Website dedicated "to develop, evaluate, and disseminate information to help prepare and inform individuals concerning personal and family security issues." During his 25-year career in the FBI, Van Zandt was a supervisor in the FBI's internationally renowned Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was also the FBI's Chief Hostage Negotiator and was the leader of the analytical team tasked with identifying the "Unabomber."