Witness says he knows where Natalee Holloway is buried

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No image availableNL Times

Additional reporting by Zack Newmark. Missing American Natalee Holloway is buried beneath a crawl space at the Marriott Hotel in Aruba, says Jurriën de Jong a self-proclaimed eyewitness to her disappearance. Authorities have thus far ignored his statement, despite his persistence to get them more deeply involved in the search, he says. He told his story to Dutch newspaper AD. De Jong, 59, says he has spent a great deal of time and his own money on his efforts. He flew to Aruba three times, where Holloway disappeared on May 30, 2005, gave his testimony under oath and repeatedly shared information with the public prosecutor there. Yet he can't get justice in Aruba to investigate the spot where, according to him, Holloway's body has been hidden for ten years. At that time, he says he regularly visited the Marriott Hotel construction site at night for illegal, drug-related purposes, which is why he did not come forward with his testimony right away. The site is near the Holiday Inn where Holloway and members of her Mountain Brook, Alabama high school graduation class were registered at on Aruba's western coast.

De Jong tells the AD that he heard voices at the gate of the construction site on the night of May 30, and quickly hid when he heard the gate open. He later recognized the two as Joran van der Sloot and Natalee Holloway. "I saw Joran run after Natalee. They go to a small building that is under construction. There is no lower step, so they have to climb to the landing," he told the newspaper. "What happens after that is unclear. But something must have gone wrong, because some time later Joran comes out with Natalee in his arms. He lays her down, jumps down and pulls her up onto his shoulder. Then he throws her body on the ground." De Jong then saw Joran hiding the body under the building, he claims. "He digs an access into the crawl space and drags Natalee inside. After about a minute he reappears, closes the opening with sand and walks back to the gate." A few days later, De Jong returned to the Netherlands, but De Jong kept silent about what he saw so that he would not be arrested for his own crimes that night. He decided to come forward after seeing a 2008 broadcast by Dutch investigative reporter Peter R. de Vries where Joran claimed that Natalee died on the beach and was dumped into the ocean. "I knew that Joran was lying and decided to pass my tips on to justice," he told the newspaper. De Jong says he tried passing along anonymous messages about the incident, but they were never investigated to the best of his knowledge. He revisited the site in 2009 and studied the Marriott's Aruba Surf Club's plans, he concluded that the missing American is buried under the staircase of the Marriott's Spyglass Tower. In 2010, he tried to have a look at the space by drilling a hole in the hotel floor, but failed. He wrote letters to the chief prosecutor in Aruba, the attorney general, the Marriott group and to Natalee's father, Dave Holloway, who remembered smelling a strong decomposing stench at the site, according to AD. After his contact with De Jong, Dave Holloway wrote to Aruba Chief Prosecutor Peter Blanken, who then had an hour long conversation with De Jong, but still saw no reason to investigate, AD reports. The former prosecutor called elements of the story "implausible," because De Jong was not accurate in his description of the height difference between Van der Sloot and Holloway, current prosecutor Eric Olthof told the newspaper. De Jong rejects this determination, saying that he saw the scene play out at a distance and at night, which makes it unsurprising to him that he might get a few visual details incorrect. The interview also took place a full eight years after the alleged crime took place. Laura Botelho, spokesperson of the Marriott, confirmed to the AD that they have had contact with De Jong on the matter, but await approval from the authorities before conducting their own internal inquiry. "As usual we will cooperate fully with the authorities if they open an official investigation," she said. Joran van der Sloot is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence in the Challapalca prison in Peru for the murder of Stephany Flores. After his sentence is served, he could be extradited to the US for the attempted extortion of Natalee Holloway's mother. He is accused in the US of demanding a large sum of money in exchange for information about the whereabouts of Holloway's remains.