true crime

Twenty years ago Natalee Holloway vanished. Now, her murderer has spoken.

Natalee Holloway was just 18 years old when she disappeared. Twenty years later, her killer has finally admitted to the violent murder, explaining in detail how he did it, and why. 

Who is Natalee Holloway?

In the prime of her life, the American teenager had been on a trip of a lifetime. She and a group of classmates from her Alabama high school had travelled to the Caribbean island of Aruba, known for its stunning white-sand beaches and incredible landscapes.  

Holloway and a few friends were enjoying a night on the town when she vanished.  She was last seen leaving a nightclub with Joran Van der Sloot, a Dutch student at Aruba’s international school. 

Her disappearance captivated the world, dominating news headlines and water cooler conversations everywhere. Being the last person to see her that night, van der Sloot was detained at the time, along with two other men. But Natalee hadn't been found, she had simply gone, and subsequently, the men were ultimately set free. 

There was no sign of Holloway and despite the mystery sparking a string of true-crime podcasts, books and movies, she was never found.

In 2012, an Alabama judge declared her legally dead. 

How a murderer came unstuck.

Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, van der Sloot was extradited to the US and charged with extortion and wire fraud. The charges date all the way back to 2010. 

He’d been indicted for extorting Natalee’s mother, Beth Holloway, demanding more than $250,000 in exchange for information about her daughter’s death. He promised to disclose the location of Natalee’s body. 


A grand jury indicted him that same year on one count of wire fraud and extortion, each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent confirmed van der Sloot requested $US25,000 to disclose Natalee’s location and another $US225,000 when her remains were recovered. The agent disclosed that van der Sloot requested both parties sign a formal agreement. 

According to court records, Natalee’s mother gave van der Sloot $US10,000 via her lawyer, who travelled to Aruba to deliver the payment. The lawyer accompanied van der Sloot to a site where he claimed Natalee’s remains were buried. It was uncovered later that van der Sloot had been lying about the location.  

During the same year, van der Sloot was also arrested in Peru for the murder of Stephany Flores. The then 21-year-old business student was murdered exactly five years after Holloway’s disappearance.


Van der Sloot was accused of beating and strangling Flores with “ferocity” and “cruelty”. He pleaded guilty to the murder of Flores in 2012 and was serving out a 28-year sentence for this crime when he was extradited to the US. 

In 2014, van der Sloot married a Peruvian woman, their wedding ceremony was held at the maximum security prison where he was serving time. 

Image: Getty.

Why did he confess to murder?


Charged with extortion and wire fraud, van der Sloot faced decades of additional jail time. He was ultimately sentenced to 20 years for extortion as part of a plea deal. That deal required him to disclose how he killed her, and how he disposed of her body. 

Court records show van der Sloot admitted using a cinderblock to “smash her head in with it completely” after she rejected him. 

She’d kneed him in the crotch, he said, after he tried “feeling her up”, continuing, even after she told him to stop. He then kicked her in the face, before grabbing the cinderblock and striking her multiple times with it. 

“Even though it’s dark, I can see her face is collapsed,” he said. He then pushed her lifeless body into the ocean. 

Van der Sloot was required to take a polygraph test to confirm his story. His confession satisfied Natalee’s mother who said at a press conference that van der Sloot was  “no longer the suspect in my daughter’s murder, he is the killer.”

She shared that she was blessed to have Natalee in her life for 18 years.

“She would be 36 years old now. It has been a very long and painful journey, but the persistence of many is going to pay off. Together, we are finally getting justice for Natalee,” she said. 

Feature image: Getty

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