MERIDIAN, MISS. — It’s been 10 years since Natalee Holloway vanished while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba, and after a decade of false hopes and dead ends, her father has never stopped looking for her.
Holloway was last seen leaving a nightclub with three men — two brothers and Joran van der Sloot, then 17.
At first, they told police they dropped Holloway off at her hotel. Then, the brothers said they took Holloway and van der Sloot to a different hotel. Van der Sloot said he left Holloway on the beach.
Hundreds of tourists and locals joined the search for Holloway. For months, international media covered the case.
Despite the effort and attention, the case went cold. Van der Sloot, now in a Peruvian prison after being convicted of murdering Stephany Flores in 2010, has never been charged in Holloway’s disappearance.
Dave Holloway believes his daughter was the victim of foul play, her body thrown in the ocean.
Holloway recently got a tip from a man claiming to have witnessed van der Sloot carrying Holloway’s body on the night she disappeared. Years ago, Dave Holloway received a call from the alleged witness, Jurrien de Jong, asserting his daughter was not in the ocean, but on land. Holloway originally brushed aside the call, one of many he received at the time from people claiming to know where is daughter was.
Holloway recently sat down with CNN’s Martin Savidge in Meridian, Mississippi, to talk about the latest development and his daughter. Below is a portion of that interview, edited for brevity and clarity.
CNN’s Martin Savidge: What did de Jong describe in his conversations with you?
Holloway: He says that a car pulls up and Joran and Natalee get out of the vehicle. This is on May 30, (2005) and this vehicle pulls into the parking lot at the Marriott hotel, and you can see a construction site and you can see the Holiday Inn … and this area is enclosed with a chained fence. He says that Natalee says, “Well the gate’s locked,” and (Van der Sloot) says something about, “Well I know a trick,” and somehow he, I guess, unwraps the chain and they go in …
Then he sees them go across the construction site, and they get up on the platform, which I presume to be the foundation of the Spyglass Tower, and they run up to an area that’s got half of a stairway built and they go up that and he loses sight of them. Then, approximately five minutes later he says they emerge with Joran carrying Natalee in his arms and apparently he knew that she was not living. He put her down on the concrete slab and then jumped down off of it and put her body down on the ground and then went and dug an opening under the slab and then put her body in it and then covered it back up and walked out.
Savidge: The Marriott has at least told the authorities down there that there wasn’t construction or any significant construction of which the witness described.
Dave Holloway: I can tell you for a fact. I was there on June 1, and there was definitely construction in that area. June 1, 2005, because it was all chained up. And that’s one of the areas we never searched because we assumed it’s locked up and secured at all times, and they have construction workers there on site. It was something we assumed that that would never need to be searched and it wasn’t.
Savidge: What changed your perception of de Jong and his story?
Holloway: Well I kept looking at it and looking at the facts and what he said, and I thought, man, I can’t go here because I’ve gone through so many of these where they had details and facts and it turned out to be nothing… I called TJ Ward, (a private investigator), and said, “TJ I need a second opinion on this guy.”
I said, “Can you look at this guy and talk to him and see what you think?” and so he did, and a couple of days later he called me back and said, “Hey, Dave, the guy passed this voice analysis test.”
“I thought ‘Oh my gosh,’ and then I started digging more and more into it. I’m thinking maybe there’s something to this, but I told TJ, I’m not going to get my hopes up. … We had the opportunity about three weeks ago to go to Aruba and check this out and we did with a cadaver dog. We were kind of blocked in the areas that we wanted to do the search so it was kind of a failed mission I guess, so to speak.
Savidge: What were you hoping for?
Holloway: Maybe to get lucky, you know? And see and put this to rest.
Savidge: Did de Jong ever ask you for money?
Savidge: Do you believe his story?
Holloway: I want to believe it, but I don’t want to get myself into a situation where I put all the marbles into this story and then it doesn’t pan out and then I’m in a situation mentally where it’s going to take a while to get over so I’m just cautiously watching and thinking, “How does this story fit in with what he is saying?”
Savidge: What would you like to see happen next?
Holloway: I would like to see that area in question is searched by a dog.
Savidge: Do you get the sense that people, at least, in Aruba would just like this to go away?
Holloway: Oh, I believe that absolutely.
Savidge: Is there ever a point you stop?
Holloway: No. As a parent you’ll never stop. Never. I mean, your child is off in a foreign country and you want to bring her back home, and I’ve got the means and the ability to go down there and check and do it, and if I’m willing and able to do it, then I always will.
Savidge: You think about Natalee every day?
Holloway: Yeah. It always passes your mind. More so now with this new lead.
Editor’s note: CNN’s Martin Savidge received this statement from Jeff Flaherty, in Global Corporate Relations at Marriott International, Inc.
“As we have done all along, we cooperate fully with the authorities whenever they are conducting an official investigation.”