(eTN) – The saga on the missing American teenager re-opens like a fresh wound to the Aruban people and the victim’s family, mom Beth Twitty and dad Dave Holloway. Natalee Holloway, the 18-year-old graduate of Alabama who traveled to the Caribbean island of Aruba with members of her senior class disappeared May 2005. She is now believed to have died on the beach and her body disposed a mile offshore. This was revealed following shocking confessions made by the prime suspect to a Dutch journalist who recorded the conversation using hidden cameras.
Top investigative crime reporter in the Netherlands, Peter R. de Vries befriended Joran van der Sloot and cracked the case with the suspect “confessing” his sins. De Vries feels the case is one of lies, conflicts of interest and highly sensitive police information. In an extra-ordinary long program running 80 minutes, he shows several aspects of this mysterious disappearance of the US tourist. In his program, he shows van der Sloot has not only lied about the fact that he dropped Natalee off at the Holiday Inn Hotel, but that there are more points in his declaration that are not correct. The latest one involved van der Sloot’s buddy Daurie as the one van der Sloot claimed to have dumped Natalee’s body – yet again, another lie as Daurie was off-island at the time. Van der Sloot apologized to him for this twist.
De Vries investigated in the Netherlands and flew recently to Aruba for a week, wrapping up research of over 18 months of the less-than-stellar performance by Aruban officials and investigators in Aruba in handling the bizarre case, according to Scaredmonkeys.com.
The Public Prosecutor has lately received from de Vries this information which may help considerably in the solving the disappearance. “In cooperation with the Aruban Police Corps, the Office is currently investigating the reliability and value of this new information. It will be evaluated in relation to the results of the preceding profound research activities,” the public prosecutor said.
Despite all efforts to reach Aruban tourist officials, the eTurbo News was refused any interview opportunity airing their end. We learned the Aruba Tourism Authority does not comment on open police investigations. Only the Office of the Prosecutor could provide official statements on the case, according to a release issued February 1st.
The Office of the Public Prosecutor of Aruba said the recent information may shed a new light on the mode by which she died and the method by which her body disappeared. Meanwhile, the Aruban Police Corps has continued the investigation of the case despite the formal discontinuation of the prosecution of the suspects of the day in December 2007. Commissioned investigators are currently charged with further inquiries. In the interest of the ongoing investigation no further information will be circulated, the prosecutor said.
Despite what has been described as fodder for media, it seems this specific story needed the media, for some reason, to crack the case.
Not too long ago, Stephen Cohen, a seasoned television news expert (former CBS veteran) joined the Strategic Communications Task Force and SMDG Consulting Team advising the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association to cooperate with police and the FBI. Cohen said the FBI had hoped to get vital information from friends and classmates who saw her last, before she left with the boys hanging out at the bar Carlos n’ Charlie’s. Cohen recalled, “Cost estimates for the case have reached in the millions of dollars. Police, judicial officials, volunteers, divers, search and rescue teams, dogs, Dutch marines and even F-16 aircrafts with special electronic device have searched every inch of the island. One pond was drained and divers have searched the ocean”
Suriname-born journalist and publisher Marvin Hokstam, residing in the Caribbean Dutch Antilles island, returned recently from a prolonged trip to Holland. Hokstam said the whole case has just been overdrawn by the media. “In my opinion, this is the most ridiculous case that has ever happened to the Caribbean. It was dragged out far too long. There’s crime all over the world. It has been bad enough that Aruba suffered so much over this case. Sadly, it is wrong to blame Aruba for what has happened,” adding van der Sloot’s words were down-pat ridiculous – worst, a hair-raising sound bite.
America’s Most Wanted senior correspondent Tom Morris Jr. said it was bold of De Vries to have strong suspicions of van der Sloot, going to great lengths befriending him. He said, “What struck me is how nonchalant Joran was about the matter. He did not feel bad about it. There are things that he did to her that he did not fully explain on the tape. It’s bizarre. There’s something he’d left out – what he did, what really caused her to stop breathing, why she was intoxicated and ended up unconscious.” Morris added it will be interesting to see what Aruban authorities will do and what can be done under Dutch law.
“On the part of de Vries, it was crime journalism at its best. He pulled off a great stunt. But he has not proven Joran’s guilt,” said Hokstam, who previously worked as AP’s correspondent on the islands.
As a top crime reporter for FOX TV, Morris said he would only operate under the law of the crime location he’s investigating. Some jurisdictions in America would require consent of recordings done. Morris said: “As a journalist with integrity, I only function within whatever the law provides for. We’ve done hidden-camera tapings on AMW but within the law of the state. Whatever de Vries has done legal or not under Dutch law, we still don’t know. But I think he went above and beyond to get to the bottom of one of the most baffling crime cases of recent years.” For all who’s riveted in the case and wanted information, Morris said van der Sloot provided the truth, even when he said he lied.
In our recent interview with Aruba Tourism Minister Edison Brisen, he said that of all challenges they’ve faced, including airlift, US economy slowdown, gas prices, economic slowdown in the US (which is Aruba’s biggest market), this one in particular has taken up their time and resources. “Everybody got involved in this case. People from the tourism department have been moved to the justice department to help solve the disappearance. This incident has kept us ‘hostage’ for more than a year,” he said adding, “In 2006, we even launched an ad campaign worth $5 million in the US to counter the negative broadcast.”
To American tourists, Morris would not recommend a boycott on travel to Aruba, as called for by some US media. “Aruba, as tourist destination, always has been and will be,” he said.
“On the other side of the coin, more people now know about Aruba. But I would not want Aruba to be known in the same way Iraq is known. One reason why we think it has been a hard blow to us. We are the safest island in the entire western hemisphere. Things like this don’t happen in Aruba,” said Briesen.
Amid the media-feeding frenzy, the Aruba Tourism Authority reported a strong tourism outlook. Year 2007 has proven to be a success with the tourism industry booming from significant growth in visitor arrival numbers and major hotel and resort renovations to new air service and more.
Aruba enjoyed a 4.17 percent growth in US arrivals through July 2007, translating into 12,497 additional US travelers to the island. Worldwide numbers are already up 6.88 percent over last year as of July, showcasing Aruba’s strengthening international appeal and reputation as one of the top Caribbean vacation destinations. Aruba’s repeat rate of almost 60 percent is a testimonial to Aruba’s tourism experience.
The 2008 booking pace is expected to exceed that of 2007. Retail booking for the first quarter of 2008 is already 35 percent ahead of the same period last year. Additionally, Aruba is enjoying over $350 million in tourism investments that has included the opening of a brand-new private jet terminal, upgrades at the airport, cruise terminal facilities, impressive expansions and renovations at many of our hotels and resorts, new hotel chains, airport and cruise developments and more.