ORANJESTAD, Aruba – As the mystery of a missing Alabama honors student drags on, questions abound about Aruban authorities’ handling of the Dutch Caribbean island’s highest-profile case in decades.
Why were the young men last seen with 18-year-old Natalee Holloway left free for days after she disappeared May 30, the last day of a five-day high school graduation trip with 124 other students?
Why did police wait 16 days after she went missing before searching the home of the Dutch youth who was flirting with her? Why did Aruban officials ask the FBI to send divers, who came to the island but never searched its waters?
Experts say these apparent mishaps could make it harder for Aruban investigators to crack the case and may ultimately prevent the Holloway family from ever knowing what happened.
Joran van der Sloot, 17, and Surinamese brothers Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, were the last ones seen with Holloway, an honors student from Mountain Brook, Ala. Her passport and bags were found in her room.
After a night of eating, drinking and dancing at a restaurant, the three men told police they took Holloway to a northern beach before dropping her off at her hotel around 2 a.m. The three were questioned soon after she disappeared but were not arrested until June 9. Attorney General Caren Janssen cited “tactical reasons,” and there was speculation that officials hoped the men might lead them to a clue.
Authorities arrested two former hotel security guards, apparently because the young men told police they’d last seen Holloway in the parking lot of her hotel being approached by a black security guard. The guards, both black, were released a week later, and one, Antonius “Mickey” John, said one of the brothers told him they had never taken Holloway back to her hotel but had dropped her off with van der Sloot at a beach neighboring the Marriott Hotel.
Investigators led a massive and fruitless search of Malmok beach June 14.
Only 16 days after Holloway went missing did investigators search the van der Sloot house, seizing two vehicles, computers and cameras.
“They should have immediately done a forensic sweep of van der Sloot’s house, his car, his clothing, and done the same with the Surinamese boys,” said Ron Watson, a retired Alabama police chief.