Updates, beginning on page 3, with an overview of Joran Van der Sloot's televised interview. Check the results for the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway poll to see how readers view the investigation.
No doubt it seemed like the perfect graduation trip for a large group of students and their chaperones from Alabama. Sunny skies, white sandy beaches, a tropical island, a relaxed eye on activities, time to soak up the sun’s rays in a moderate climate, and plenty of nightlife for drinking and dancing.
In Aruba, a flat, riverless island renowned for its white sand beaches. Thousands of visitors from around the world return to the island each year to relax and enjoy the festive atmosphere and the tropical climate moderated by constant trade winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The temperature is almost constant at about 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit). The highest point is Mount Jamanota 188 m and the lowest is the Caribbean Sea that surrounds the island. With a population estimated about 71,566 in 193 sq.mi., the island is devoted to tourism, although tourist arrivals have declined in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US. The government now must deal with a budget deficit and a negative trade balance. Aruba bills itself as one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. Crime against tourists is almost non-existent.
Aruba is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Dutch is the official language, but residents also speak Papiamento (a Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English dialect), English and Spanish. Although Aruba is a transit point for US- and Europe-bound narcotics with some accompanying money-laundering activity, the island is considered a safe vacation destination for visitors of all ages.
Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986 and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's request in 1990. The legal and judiciary systems are based on the Dutch civil law system, with some influence from the English common law influence. The judges of the Common Court of Justice of Aruba are appointed by the Dutch monarch. Many countries, including the US. do not have an embassy in Aruba. The US Consul General to Netherlands Antilles is accredited to Aruba.
Why are these facts about this tiny tropical island necessary?
They are background to understanding the situation and the environment in which an American teenaged girl, on the last night of her vacation in Aruba, disappeared and has not been found since. Immediate and regular searches for her on Aruba have not been successful.
From all accounts, 18 year old Natalee Holloway is an above average student with ambitions for college and future life. She's considered pleasant, level-headed and a joy to her parents and extended family who have offered a $1,000,000 reward for her safe return. She was last seen Monday, May 30, 2005 at approximately 0130 hours leaving Carlos 'n' Charlie's nightclub in the town of Oranjestad. Friends saw her getting into a vehicle outside the nightclub. After missing her return flight home, Natalee's passport and luggage were discovered still in her hotel room. Foul play is suspected. It is possible that she may have been taken off the island against her will.
For full coverage of the multiple news stories covering Natalee's disappearance and the efforts to find her, refer to Natalee Holloway.
The story about Natalee has reached international media coverage. Daily reports detailed the almost immediate arrests of two former security guardsfor the Allegra Hotel, Antonius "Mickey" John, 30, and Abraham Jones, 28, their release; the arrests of three young men, Joran Van Der Sloot, 17, and Surinamese-born brothers Satish Kalpoe, 18, and Deepak Kalpoe, 21, who said they gave Holloway a ride on the night she disappeared; the arrest of Joran Van Der Sloot's father, Paulus Van Der Sloot; the detention and release of disc jockey Steve Gregory Croes; the release of the Kalpoe brothers; the arrival of FBI consultants, the arrival and efforts of Texas Equusearch, a private volunteer search team, plus the ever present and mounting grief and frustration of parents and family members. Refer to this Timeline for a day by day recap.
The search for Natalee has had a huge amount of media air time in the US. Numerous news analysts speculate endlessly about Natalee, her activities on Aruba, the persons involved in the case, Joran Van Der Sloot, the 17-year-old dutch teen suspected of playing a primary role in Natalee's disappearance, Joran's father who apparently told his son to keep quiet, that a missing body meant no case; the two Surinamese brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe who were arrested with the young Van Der Sloot and subsequently released to great media bafflement and Natalee's family consternation. The elder Van Der Sloot was also questioned and released.