He had billed it as “the most interesting and revealing crime show” of his career and it was sold to US networks before it was broadcast on Dutch television. In a gripping two-hour whodunit, crime reporter Peter R. de Vries reconstructed in detail what happened on that fateful night on a sandy Caribbean beach in mid-2005.
De Vries took his viewers to Aruba where, on 30 May 2005, US teenager Natalee Holloway was celebrating the final night of her high school graduation trip to the island.
She met a 17-year-old Dutch student, Joran van der Sloot, in the casino of her hotel. He and his friends drove her to a beach late at night. The friends said goodbye, Joran van der Sloot spent some time with her. Natalee Holloway vanished, never to be seen again.
That, in a nutshell, was the official story, one that Dutch viewers, and certainly the Justice authorities on Aruba, were familiar with. But Peter R. de Vries had managed to obtain a full confession from the main suspect. He had a Range Rover rigged with several hidden cameras and instructed the driver, a Caribbean-born entrepreneur who had befriended Van der Sloot six months before, to ask the student some pointed questions.
“Didn’t tick anymore”
The video footage shows Joran van der Sloot smoking marihuana and telling his friend on several occasions the details of what happened on Aruba two and a half years ago.
He describes how he had sex with the young American woman, that all of a sudden “she started shaking and didn’t tick anymore”, how he phoned an friend who owned a boat and who then came over to the beach to help him to dispose of the body at sea.
Again, most Dutch viewers had already heard much of that part too. It was leaked to the press on Friday and Joran van der Sloot was quick to respond.
Speaking by telephone on a late-evening talk show on Friday, Van der Sloot said he was retrospectively kicking himself for having said all this: “It’s so dumb, so dumb. It’s really dumb. I said something; something I shouldn’t have said.” However, he also added that “It is also easy to prove that what I said is not true,” although he appeared not to know how this could be done.
Van der Sloot maintained his innocence: “It’s a story I told my friend because I knew that it was what he wanted to hear”.
Before Sunday’s broadcast, crime reporter Peter R. de Vries notified the Aruban Public Prosecutor’s Office and also asked Natalee’s mother, Beth Twitty, to come to the Netherlands so that he could present his findings to her in person in advance.
The new material prompted the Aruban Public Prosecutor’s Office to reopen the investigation into the disappearance. “This information may help considerably in the solution of the mystery of Natalee’s disappearance,” a spokesman stated. It “may shed a new light on the mode” in which she died and the “method by which her body disappeared.”
However, experts differ when it comes to the legal significance of this secretly recorded confession. Will it hold up as evidence in a court of law?
Some argue that filming people without their knowledge is a punishable offence; others believe it will only be weighed by a judge if there is a body of other evidence pointing in the same direction. But there’s a general consensus that, combined with the evidence already found, suspicion now clearly lies with Joran van der Sloot.
The Dutch student emerges from the video-footage as a callous, calculating, cold-hearted young man, Peter R de Vries concluded, ending a memorable crime show on Dutch television.
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