Remembering Natalee 

Mother of missing student carries message of personal safety to students in Memphis.

On Thursday, February 5th, more than 300 people filled the gymnasium at Rossville Christian Academy to hear Beth Holloway talk about her daughter, Natalee, who vanished May 30, 2005, during a school trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba.

The 18-year-old's disappearance sparked a media frenzy, and Beth Holloway began her talk by bluntly stating what she believed happened to her daughter almost four years ago: "Natalee was kidnapped, raped, and killed. She went there to have fun, but she ran into others who had a different agenda."

According to police investigations, Natalee was last seen in the company of three young men on the evening of May 30th. Her school group was supposed to return to her hometown of Mountain Brook, Alabama, the following morning, but the young woman didn't show. That morning, said Holloway, "I got the call every parent would dread — one that would change my life forever."

She and her husband immediately flew to Aruba, and a quick glance at her daughter's hotel room, showing her clothes neatly packed and her passport on the bed, told her "something was terribly wrong."

One problem was that the chief suspect, 17-year-old Joran van der Sloot, was the son of a prominent judge. The police claimed they didn't have enough evidence to arrest the young man or two others also seen with Natalee that evening, "so we were left to search on our own," Holloway said.

She and her family investigated every tip they could, including bizarre tales that Natalee had been kidnapped and sold into prostitution or was being held prisoner in one of the many island crack houses that the police pretended didn't exist.

"The hidden underbelly of the island had been exposed," she said, "and it wasn't pretty."

Holloway believes she knows what happened. She said that van der Sloot finally confessed to killing her daughter: "He gave her a shot of rum, and that produced a seizure. He then got friends to help him dump her body in the sea. We'll never know if she was alive or not when that happened."

The case, however, is still considered unsolved. "There is nothing I can do to get justice for Natalee," said her mother, "because they don't do things [in other countries] the way we do here."

So now Holloway is speaking to groups like those who gathered at Rossville Christian Academy.

"The best way to honor Natalee," she explained, "is by talking with students about personal safety. It's not a safe world — not on Internet chat rooms and not on island vacations."

Holloway recently founded an organization called TravelEd to teach personal safety to students and young men and women who travel abroad. That effort has taken her to schools in 23 states.

"You can never feel too confident or too safe," she said. "My daughter let her guard down for a moment, and in that moment she vanished."

Holloway ended her talk with a video tribute to her daughter and then autographed copies of her book, Loving Natalee.

"People often ask what keeps me going," Holloway said. "The human spirit can withstand a lot — more than I ever thought possible. And I talked to Natalee and I pledged never to give up. Never."

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • NextDoor Homecoming

      Social network comes back to East Buntyn, where it all started.
    • Build Up

      Developing news comes to Midtown, East Memphis.
    • Trials on Trial

      Shelby County District Attorney General’s office again targeted for misconduct.

Blogs

Politics Beat Blog

Shafer En Route to Commission Chairmanship — and Maybe More

News Blog

Passengers, Flights Up at Airport

News Blog

Latino Memphis Mobilizes in Response to ICE Surge

Politics Beat Blog

Luttrell Endorses Randy Boyd for Governor

Music Blog

Listen Up: Ben Abney

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen Tells It!

Hungry Memphis

Royal's Yvonne Mitchell Cooking Up Hits

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Michael Finger

  • Memphis' "Summer of Fear"

    Thirty-seven years ago this week, Memphis became a city in fear. In the late summer of 1969, a cold-blooded killer stalked the streets, and over a period of 28 days, police made one grisly discovery after another. In the end, the slayer was captured after a wild chase by a posse of ordinary citizens. After his arrest, George Howard Putt told reporters, “I’d do it all again.” The murder spree began on the afternoon of August 14, 1969 ...
    • Mar 16, 2016
  • Mr. Bingle to Appear at Potters Guild Show

    • Nov 20, 2014
  • Book Notes

    • Oct 20, 2011
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Flyer Flashback

Six Memphis Characters

Eccentrics, artists, and oddballs — six Memphians who live life their way.

Read Story

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation