PEOPLE Explains: The Natalee Holloway Case and the Recent Discovery of Human Remains

Natalee Holloway went missing on a class graduation trip to Aruba in 2005

For more than 12 years, the Natalee Holloway case has remained a mystery. There have been few new clues in the case of the 18-year-old Alabama high school senior who disappeared while on a class trip to Aruba.

But on Wednesday, Natalee’s father, Dave Holloway, said he may have made a “major discovery” in the case of his daughter, saying that unidentified human remains have been found behind a house in Aruba.

He made the revelation during an appearance on NBC’s Today show to promote Saturday night’s premiere of Oxygen’s new true crime series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.


Here are five things to know about the case and the latest developments.

1. Natalee Went Missing in 2005 on a Class Graduation Trip to Aruba

Natalee Holloway vanished on May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip to Aruba. The night before she was supposed to leave the island, Natalee was seen by her classmates at a restaurant and nightclub.

She was later seen in a car with Joran van der Sloot and two other men, who claimed that they had dropped Natalee off at her hotel.

2. Authorities Suspect Joran van der Sloot, Who Has Denied Involvement

Authorities — and Natalee’s family — suspect that Joran van der Sloot, one of the last people to see her alive, is responsible. He has not faced trial in connection with her case and has at times denied involvement, despite a series of conflicting and shifting accounts of what he knows.

He remains in a Peruvian prison after pleading guilty in the unrelated murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez. According to authorities, van der Sloot choked, beat and smothered Ramirez in a drunken rage.

He has been sentenced to 28 years.

3. The Recent Remains Were Found After a Tip from an Aruban Man

Holloway says that a man who claims to have helped to dispose of Natalee’s body has come forward.

“We have a person who states he was directly involved with [suspect] Joran van der Sloot in disposing of Natalee’s remains,” Holloway told Today Wednesday. “I thought, you know, there may be something to this. We’ve chased a lot of leads and this one is by far the most credible lead I’ve seen in the last 12 years.”

Holloway says that, based on the informant’s tips, they have found some unidentified skeletal human remains.

4. Father: Family Will Know if Remains Are Natalee’s Within a Month

Holloway and private investigator T.J. Ward have been back and forth to Aruba over the last 18 months, uncovering leads and talking to possible witnesses and authorities.

According to the two men, the bones that were found have been tested — and were determined to be human.

Holloway, who calls the discovery a “major discovery,” said that DNA testing is being done on the bones and that he should know within the next month if they are his daughter’s.


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5. Natalee’s Family is Preparing Themselves for The DNA Results

“When we determined these remains were human, I was shocked,” Holloway said, adding he had been disappointed before in his search for the truth.

Over the years, Dave Holloway has explored several avenues in his relentless search for his daughter — and many of them have been dead ends. He acknowledges that it could happen again.

“I know there’s a possibility this could be someone else,” he adds, “and I’m just trying to wait and see.”

And if the remains are of his daughter? Holloway says he’s praying for closure.

“It would finally be the end,” he said.

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