The 2005 murder of Natalee Holloway was solved last Wednesday, 18 years after the young American woman disappeared outside a nightclub during a high school trip to the Antillean island of Aruba. One of the main suspects, Joran van der Sloot, a 36-year-old Dutchman who witnesses saw walking with the victim that night, confessed to the crime before a judge in Birmingham (Alabama), where the young woman lived. There is still no trace of Holloway’s body, who was declared legally dead in 2012.
Van der Sloot is serving time in a Peruvian prison for the 2010 murder in Lima of another student, Stephany Flores Ramírez, 21, and was on trial in the United States for extorting Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway. In 2010, he asked her for $250,000 in exchange for information about her daughter’s whereabouts.
Court documents with the transcript of the murderer’s confession help reconstruct what happened the night of Holloway’s death. The two met in a bar and ended up kissing on the beach. When she asked him to stop, he continued touching her. Holloway tried to get him off of her by kneeing him in the groin. Van der Sloot, standing, then kicked her “extremely hard,” which left her “possibly even dead but definitely unconscious.” He then picked up a cinder block and used it to smash in her head. He carried her body to the water and pushed it out to sea.
Van der Sloot, who lived in the former Dutch colony in the Caribbean and was then a student at an international institute on the island, was questioned on two occasions. He was never charged with any crime.
The night of Holloway’s murder, he was with two other people, two brothers from Suriname. But the Holloway family’s lawyers do not believe Van der Sloot could have acted with the help of one of them. At a press conference following the confession, Beth Holloway said: “I’m satisfied knowing that he did it, he did it alone and he disposed of her alone.”
““As far as I’m concerned, it’s over. Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter’s murder. He is the killer,” she added.
When the extortion attempt occurred, Beth Holloway agreed to pay Van der Sloot $25,000 and agreed that later, once the body was discovered, she would give him the remaining $225,000. The information provided by Van der Sloot turned out to be false. The FBI knew about the extortion, but did not arrest him because he was already serving time in Peru for another murder of a young woman. In June of this year, the authorities of the South American country accepted a temporary extradition of the prisoner so that he could stand trial in the United States.
The confession was part of a plea agreement with prosecutors; under the terms of the deal, he received a 20-year reduced sentence for the financial crimes, which will run concurrently with the 28-year sentence he’s serving in Peru. Now he must return to Lima, where he will continue to serve that sentence.
“I would like the chance to apologize to the Holloway family, to my own family,” said Van der Sloot, later adding, “I am no longer the person I was back then.”
The case of Holloway — a young American whose dream of seeing the world ended in a nightmare — sparked great interest in the U.S. media, which rushed to provide sensationalist coverage. Cable news networks were also criticized for focusing more on the murder of Holloway, a rich white girl, than other victims from minority groups. The case also sparked true crime novels and documentaries.
The other victim killed by Van der Sloot was Stephany Flores, the daughter of a rich Peruvian businessman, whose body was found in 2010 in a hotel room in Lima. The hotel room was in the name of the Dutchman, who was in the city to participate in an international poker tournament. Security footage showed him going up to the room with Flores. He was arrested in Viña del Mar, in Chile, after fleeing the country. Back in Lima, he pleaded guilty and received 28 years in prison, a sentence he is serving in the Challapalca maximum security prison, more than 4,000 meters above sea level, in the mountains of the Tacna region.
While Van der Sloot was found guilty of extortion in Alabama, he may not be prosecuted for Holloway’s murder, despite confessing to the killing. In statements to Associated Press, Mark White, the lawyer for Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, said that he cannot be prosecuted in Aruba, because the statute of limitations has expired.
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