A man who provided an ever-shifting account about his claim that he dug up Natalee Holloway’s remains in Aruba was deemed “not a credible source” by an Aruban police chief in Saturday’s final episode of a docu-series about the mystery.
But that didn’t diminish the pained disgust of Natalee’s dad, Dave Holloway, who observed that the man apparently kept and hid a plastic baggie of unidentified dug-up bone fragments “as a prize, so to speak,” according to the six-part Oxygen series The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.
After filming the series that followed Holloway and private investigator T.J. Ward on the trail of the man who says he helped remove and destroy Natalee’s remains in 2010, Holloway said DNA tests revealed that bone fragments discovered on the series turned out to be human skeletal remains.
Testing done in the U.S. linked the bones to a European and Caucasian ancestry, like Natalee, but could not identify a gender or further biological lineage, according to a forensic scientist who worked with Holloway and Ward. Additional testing on the bone material is scheduled for October 6.
But Aruban police and the Aruban prosecutor’s office disagree on the finding, and said the bones are likely an animal’s, and the man who made these claims on the series has not been arrested in the case.
In fact, the Oxygen series ended as it began: with unanswered questions about the fate of the Alabama teen, long-presumed dead, who vanished on the last night of a May 2005 high school graduation trip to the island.
Ever-Changing Stories About Natalee’s Remains
In earlier accounts, according to the series, the man who took credit for his role had claimed that he accepted $1,500 from his friend Joran van der Sloot, the longtime suspect in Natalee’s disappearance, to move Natalee’s remains from a national forest and dispose of them elsewhere.
(Van der Sloot, among the last men seen with Natalee, is now serving prison time for a murder conviction in Peru. He was arrested and questioned but never prosecuted for Natalee’s disappearance, and despite once offering to tell an attorney for Natalee’s mom, Beth, where he hid the remains, he has maintained his innocence.)
Next, the man — who has admitted to a heroin addiction — claimed the remains were buried in a different spot, within walking distance of a residential cul de sac, and that after he unearthed them, the remains were mingled with dog bones to disguise their origin before being taken to a morgue for cremation.
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Then, he said van der Sloot himself joined him on the dig-up of the alleged burial site, and the two men poured gasoline and set fire to Natalee’s skull in a cave before they “pummeled” the bones for hours, then rented a fisherman’s boat to dump the remains at sea.
In the concluding installment, the man said it wasn’t a cave but rather under a canopy of trees where the skull was burned.
The ever-shifting explanation led Aruban Police Chief Dolfi Richardson to say on the series, “What he was saying was not possible. And then he changes his story, ‘No, no, I wasn’t there.’ I mean, there were so many holes we could shoot in his story that we knew that he was not really a credible witness.”
As versions of his account are discredited in the episode — not only by police, but also by Ward’s investigative team — an informant who first brought the man to Holloway and Ward’s attention urges the man to produce more evidence that he’s telling the truth.
That led the man to change his story again, saying that after the remains were dug up and the bones crushed, they were mixed with a dog’s and buried in a pet cemetery.
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Separately, near the base of a wall behind a rental property where the man claimed that he and van Der Sloot broke up the bones, the man then dug up the baggie of bone fragments “that he kept as a trophy,” according to the informant in a subsequent phone call to Holloway.
That revelation still failed to sway the Aruban police, who told Holloway and Ward: “Even if he did help, what we need is evidence. He said, ’These are the bones of Natalee.’ He presented us that. And it was bogus. I mean, it’s not even human bones. So for me … he’s not a credible source.”
‘I Need to Know’ About Bones, Says Natalee’s Dad
Holloway and Ward then asked to take the four small bone fragments for themselves back to the U.S. from Aruba, after the police chief says that by doing so, the alleged evidence could never be used for any criminal prosecution in Aruba.
“That was not really my concern at that point in time, because how did you determine they were non-human?” Holloway said. “I need to know, and I never got a clear answer on that. … Now I can have them tested.”
When Holloway eventually does have them tested, and forensic scientist Dr. Jason Kowolski confirms the human DNA, a startled but still-skeptical Holloway replies, “There is a possibility, though, that this could be somebody else.”
“There is,” Kowolski answers.
“Even now, right now, I’m thinking, OK, they’re somebody else’s bones,” says Holloway. “I’m not going to believe it until the final test is done. … And I’ll be on pins and needles until that test is determined one way or the other, I’m sure.”