Natalee Holloway’s parents believe they “finally got justice” after the man long suspected of killing the 18-year-old confessed to the crime in grisly detail and revealed what he did with her body, providing answers in a case that has captivated the public’s attention for almost two decades.
Joran van der Sloot, the Dutch man who was one of the people last seen with Holloway before she disappeared during her high school graduation trip to Aruba in 2005, admitted he murdered her in a confession that was recorded on video and shared after a plea and sentencing hearing in Birmingham, Alabama, on Wednesday.
Providing details about what he did to Holloway and what happened to her body was part of van der Sloot’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors as he faced extortion and wire fraud charges. At the hearing, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“Thanks to a lot of very smart and dedicated people, I got the answer I’ve been searching for since 2005,” Beth Holloway, Natalee’s mother, said in a statement Wednesday. “Joran van der Sloot’s confession means we have finally reached the end of this never-ending nightmare, and for me, that’s even better than closure.”
“We now know that he killed her — intentionally, because she dared to stand up for her own body and defended herself against his unwanted sexual advances,” Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, wrote to Judge Anna M. Manasco ahead of Wednesday’s hearing after watching van der Sloot’s confession.
In his confession, recorded on Oct. 3 and shared as evidence on Wednesday, van der Sloot, now 36, detailed what happened after he said Natalee Holloway “asked to go back to her hotel.” Instead, van der Sloot admitted, he had his two friends drop them off farther away so he “might still get a chance to be with her” while walking on the beach.
“I lay her down” on the sand, he says, recounting the crime in the present tense, “and we start kissing each other.”
“I start feeling her up … and she tells me no. She tells me she doesn’t want me to feel her up. I insist. I keep feeling her up either way.”
Holloway tried to stop his sexual assault, van der Sloot says, by kneeing him in the crotch.
In response, he recalls, “I get up on the beach and I kick her extremely hard in the face.”
“She’s laying down, unconscious, possibly even dead, but definitely unconscious. I see right next to her there’s a huge cinderblock laying on the beach. I take this and I smash her head in with it completely. Her face basically collapses in. Even though it’s dark, I can see her face is collapsed in.”
The federal extortion and wire fraud charges came after van der Sloot promised Beth Holloway in 2010 that he would reveal the location of her daughter’s body if she paid him $250,000. U.S. officials do not have jurisdiction over the murder case, and Aruban officials have not chosen to prosecute van der Sloot. He was extradited to the U.S. for the extortion case from Peru, where he is currently serving 28 years in prison for killing another woman, 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in 2010. His 20-year sentence in the U.S. will run concurrently with his sentence in Peru.
Over the years, van der Sloot has provided several inconsistent, provably false accounts of how he concealed Holloway’s body, but the Holloways said Wednesday they believe what he said in his confession — including how he disposed of her body — which Beth Holloway said had been “verified by a comprehensive and conclusive polygraph test.”
“Afterwards I don’t exactly know what, you know — I’m scared. I don’t know what to do,” van der Sloot says in his confession. “I decide to take her and put her into the ocean. So I grab her and I half pull, half walk with her into the ocean. I push her off. I walk up to about my knees into the ocean and I push her off into the sea.”
“After that, I get out,” van der Sloot says matter-of-factly. “I walk home.”
Beth and Dave Holloway both said Wednesday that they believe van der Sloot acted alone.
“Despite everything he has done to us, he is not sorry for what he did,” Dave Holloway wrote. “He expresses no remorse, regret, or even compassion for committing the horrific crime that violently ended Natalee’s life and irreparably changed the trajectory of all of ours. He is evil personified.”
Natalee Holloway was last seen leaving a nightclub with van der Sloot and the brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, who were long suspected of being involved in her disappearance.
But van der Sloot said the brothers got in their car and left after dropping him and Holloway off.
“I assume they go back to their home,” he says in the interview.
Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, Beth Holloway told reporters that she now considers the case solved, adding, “It’s over.”
Holloway added that the details van der Sloot revealed were “brutal” and “disturbing,” but as a parent, she had to know them.
“I was blessed to have had Natalee in my life for 18 years,” she said. “She would be 36 years old now and I still miss her every single day. It has been a very long and painful journey, but we finally got the answers we’ve been searching for all these years. We finally got justice for Natalee.”