Eighteen years after American teenager Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba, her long suspected murderer, 36-year-old Dutchman Joran van der Sloot, finally admitted to killing her, putting an end to what her mother Beth Holloway called “a very long and painful journey.”
“But we finally got the answers we’ve been searching for, for all these years. We got justice for Natalee,” she said.
Beth Holloway was speaking to reporters outside a courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, the family’s home state, after Joran van der Sloot confessed to trying to extort $250,000 dollars from her in 2010 in exchange for information on how Natalee died and what happened to her remains. The information he provided at the time was false.
It was part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, where he received a 20-year reduced sentence for admitting the details of Natalee’s murder.
Holloway, who had just graduated from high school in 2005 and was celebrating with classmates in Aruba, was last seen leaving a nightclub with Van der Sloot, then aged 17, and two other young men.
That was all that was known about her for years, until the court on Wednesday released documents that included excerpts of a statement Van der Sloot gave to his lawyer earlier this month.
It was the first account of what happened to her.
Van der Sloot described brutally attacking Natalee after she tried to fend off his sexual advances on a beach. He said that they had been kissing, but she kneed him between the legs after he wanted to go further.
He then said he kicked her “extremely hard” in the face, at which point she was “possibly even, uh, even dead but definitely unconscious.”
He said he then picked up a large cinder block and used it to “smash her head in with it completely.”
He then “half pull[ed] and half walk[ed],” her to the ocean, pushed her in and walked home.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over,” Beth Holloway told reporters outside the federal courthouse. “Joran van der Sloot is no longer the suspect in my daughter’s murder. He is the killer.”
According to The Associated Press, at the sentencing, Judge Anna M. Manasco addressed van der Sloot: “You have brutally murdered, in separate instances years apart, two young women who refused your sexual advances.”
She was referring to the 2010 murder of Peruvian student Stephany Flores, for which van der Sloot is already serving a 28-year sentence in Peru. He was extradited to the US earlier this year, but will return to Peru to serve his two sentences concurrently.
Natalee’s remains were never found, and in 2012 she was declared dead by a court.
In a letter to the judge, her father Dave Holloway said that while he believes Van der Sloot, who he called “evil personified”, was his daughter’s lone killer, he has doubts about him not having help disposing of her body.
“Questions will forever remain about the extent to which others participated in depriving us of the opportunity to return Natalee’s remains to Alabama,” Dave Holloway wrote in the letter.
He also released a statement saying that “today’s proceeding confirmed that this defendant murdered Natalee and then tortured and extorted those who loved her most.”
Natalee’s parents are divorced but have been working together for years to get answers about what happened to their daughter. The 18 years it took to get them were the same amount of years their daughter lived. She would have turned 37 this week.
According to the AP, Beth Holloway addressed Van der Sloot from a courtroom podium. “You are a killer,” she said. “I want you to remember that every time that jail door slams.”