Natalee Holloway

History Uncovered Episode 114:
The Chilling Story Behind The Disappearance Of Natalee Holloway

Published May 3, 2024

When 18-year-old Natalee Holloway vanished in Aruba during a school trip in 2005, her family was left without answers — until a young man named Joran Van Der Sloot finally came forward with a grisly story about what happened to her.

On May 30, 2005, a group of exhausted American high school students gathered in the lobby of a Holiday Inn in Aruba ahead of their flight back home. They’d flown to the Caribbean island as part of a high school graduation trip and had spent the last few days lying on the beach, partying in clubs, and drinking in the island’s bars.

But as the adult chaperones counted the students assembled in the lobby, they realized that one was missing: Natalee Holloway.

The seven chaperones had no choice. They had more than 100 other students to think of and a flight to catch. So one of the adults called Natalee’s mother and told her that the 18-year-old had not shown up that morning — and then the group set off for the airport. As the flight took off, Natalee’s friends anxiously assumed that she’d overslept.

Natalee Holloway

FBINatalee Holloway was 18 years old when she disappeared during a graduation trip to Aruba in 2005.

But Natalee’s mother Beth had a bad feeling. She was convinced that something terrible had happened to her daughter, a bright, serious straight-A student set to attend the University of Alabama on full scholarship. And Beth was soon proven right: Natalee would never be seen again.

The blonde, blue-eyed teenager from Alabama had last been seen at a club called Carlos ‘n Charlie’s, where witnesses remembered seeing her talking to a tall Dutch teenager. As the night came to an end at around 1 a.m. the bar played “Sweet Home Alabama” for Natalee and her classmates. Then, the jubilant teenagers headed out into the night to catch cabs and return to their hotel. But Natalee didn’t go straight back to the hotel. Instead, witnesses remembered her getting into a car with the tall Dutchman.

What happened to Natalee Holloway next? As the years dragged on, the mystery only depended. The investigation into her disappearance came to revolve around the man she was last seen with, a 17-year-old Dutch national named Joran Van Der Sloot, who had started hanging around Natalee and her classmates during their trip. When questioned by police, Van Der Sloot insisted that he’d dropped her off at her hotel — alive and unharmed.

But Van Der Sloot’s story twisted and turned with each retelling. Then, in 2023, while serving time for an unrelated murder, he announced that he would finally tell the truth.

This is the full story of Natalee Holloway’s 2005 disappearance, from her last night alive to how the shocking case unfolded in the years that followed.

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