A common-sense recreation of Natalee Holloway's disappearance in Aruba.

by Leonid Sakharov

It was blanket coverage several years story in all cable news channels and any news programming since the first coverage in May of 2005.

The best synopsis of the events can be found on the Wikipedia page Disappearance of Natalee Holloway although some basic facts there are not quite updated. In particular, the bar, where Natallee and the primary suspect in her disappearance, Joran van der Sloot, met, looks like changing a name. The picture presented by Wikipedia was apparently taken years ago. Present days image from the same vantage point shows no sign of Carlos'n Charlie's nightclub.

The pictures of Carlos'n Charlie's bar presented in Wikipedia ( left) and the picture taken by me ( right) from the Cruise Ship almost from the same vitage point show absence nowdays of this bar.


Instead of Carlos'n Charlie's, there is a bar and restaurant "7 West" at the same place now. The picture taken inside this new by-name establishment gives an impression of a far from the high-end bar, sort of ordinary place of such sort. One can easily consider the proposition to leave this bar to any other place as quite reasonable and even a good idea. The bar is located in the very downtown of Oranjestad which is the business center of the small island Aruba. It is important to keep in mind also that the slogan of Aruba is "One Happy Island". It stays in sharp contrast with coverage of Natalee's disappearance because in Aruba a feeling of happiness not fear of crime is a predominant sensation.

The entrance ( left) and inside ( right) of "7 West" bar on the place where of Carlos'n Charlie's nightclub was during Natalee Holloway disapearance.

Other not highlighted enough during an avalanche of press coverage facts are following:


Taking all facts into account including presented in Wikipedia article the most probable reconstruction of events of the night of Natalee Holloway disappearance to my mind could be the following story. I don't want to pretend that this sort of novel is the actual representation of true history. It is just a common-sense version that accommodates motivations, state of mind, and specific surroundings. In some sort, it is a general story not specifically related to persons Natalee Holloway and Jordan van der Sloot. In the story, characters will be called Girl and Boy to make clear that it is in no way documentary and much less it is not a legal statement in any shape or form. It is just my fantasy based on my life experience. (I was in a sort of similar situation but thanks God without any complications only with obvious resemblances). So:

Girl collides Boy... Oh, No!

It was her last night in Aruba for Girl who is just graduated high school in Alabama somewhere inland of the State. Events are rare visitors of the neighborhood. Life is comfortable and lack of adventures creates an impulse to rebel in some way even a stupid one. Girl considers this environment to be grossly dull. No Hollywood is nearby. No Broadway. Ordinary life day by day. The high school is over and Alabama University is ahead. Not Harvard ahead, just your next-door campus with the prospective to be an ordinary doctor in a rural small town until the last days of your life.

Five sunny beach days and fun crazy nights passed as one instance. The tender water of the ocean refreshes the whole body no matter how heavy alcohol consumption night before. Finally without micromanagement control at home and school with whole summer ahead before university work Girl permitted herself to lose guards. This last night she and others decided to explore the downtown of the major city nightlife of this small welcoming island. Previous nights in high hotels area they encountered mostly family vacation types. For them trying to play "girls do wild" in nightclubs of the too conservative area to try local bar visitors was the adventure after developing a strong feeling that the island is a completely safe place.

The nightclub in the cruise port area has a huge billboard at the two-story building with a flat roof remaining remodeled warehouse. It is situated in the very center of Oranjestad near the cruise terminal. Interior was sort of cheap like hundreds of establishments of the sort. Girls occupied a table in the dance area, ordered drinks. There was a Boy with two friends who look like his entourage. Boy was not too handsome but very young and at the same time self-confident. Most important that nobody else except him was even close to a potential dance partner. Girl just wants to have fun. To dance, to laugh, to prove for herself to be worth of opposite sex attention.

No need to say that both of them tried to look much more full-grown up than were. For Boy there was a particular complication to be under legal alcohol consumption age. He did an effort to make an impression that the drink in his glass was not a juice cocktail. The next few hours Boy and Girl were dancing, talking about dull old relatives, how different Aruba appears to native folks compared to tourists who are always on vacation and carefree. Boy told that there are landmarks of spectacular places except for just sandy beaches at its western side of the island. Natural bridge situates around a sort of rock-like field with relentless waves hitting the shore for thousands of years. The area of California Lighthouse that is very close to high Hotels place where a hotel of Girl was located has in general similar appearance. The shore northern to California Lighthouse has a sort of wild natural view similar to the south part of the island. There are sharks also there said Boy. Really!, I would like to see instantly reply Girl. Both of them had a clear understanding that no sharks could be seen at night from the shore but an idea to watch wild creatures makes a welcomed excuse for visiting a beach together. Why not, it is so romantic.

California Lighthouse in Aruba.

Arashi Beach. The view from California Lighthouse.

A car arrives at California Lighthouse beach in twenty minutes fast drive-by empty road. The company of Boy with Girl and two mute-like guys passed a hotel of the Girl. Girl had no hesitation to move farther on. What she could do in the hotel anyway? Collecting small staff in the case to be ready to leave home? Not fan. It can wait till morning she convinced herself very easily. The deserted parking lot near Lighthouse was almost dark with a waning Moon only starting to ascend at the east side that is opposite to the ocean there. Let’s go to the beach offer Boy. His friends were not happy too much with the situation. Their duty to keep eye on the boy already took a long time and promises only embarrassing waiting until he would finish the glamour business with Girl. It was enough for them. We will drop off you where you ask to, said the elder one. Nether Boy or Girl paid attention. The area was perfectly known to Boy. It would take no more than two hours to walk home for him and twice less for Girl should decide to walk alone. The island is a virtually crime-less place completely safe day and night. Two guys know that leaving Boy and Girl at the beach will not endanger anybody. They stopped a car at Arashi Beach bus stop, said bye to the couple and the lights of their car disappeared in the thin air of the hot tropical night.

Boy and Girl walk to the edge of the calm ocean. Neither of them was sexually mature. Boy expected to get score and to kiss Girl goodbye. Girl has no idea whatsoever how far would she want to progress this romance if it could be called such. It was just a chance that both of them were here together. No real chemistry between them but an extreme romantic landscape. Boy tried to kiss Girl. She wanted to follow basic instinct but felt nothing. The move of the Boy to her was more ritualistic than an impulse of passion. After minutes of kissing, Girl feels sick in the stomach. She pushed Boy and throw up alcohol and last night's dinner directly to the ocean. For Boy it was a message of insult rejection. It was nothing further from the truth. Girl was intoxicated and tired. He tragically read her wrong. Boy said "goodbye". The world that Girl didn't get. Boy turns to her and walks in his direction to his home convincing himself that nothing bad will happen with Girl. It was only a twenty-minute distance by foot to her hotel and the lights of the high Hotels area would give her unmistakable direction. It would be a correct assumption in general but as always to be right in most cases is not a guarantee for any particular one. Just a small probability mistake can ruin lives for everybody even indirectly involved. A fatal fate of the chance changes history killing millions how it was with Gavrilo Principle who started WW1, the war that dominates the whole history since. In this situation waves of irresponsible behavior of the Boy were much smaller but significant enough to premature end lives of several persons afterward.

Girl noticed that she is alone on the beach sometime later when Boy was already far away. She smells a sour odor from her clothes dirty of stomach content. It needs to be cleaned up before walking to the hotel decided Girl. Swimming in the ocean looked like the good and obvious idea to wash up everything. She went to the still almost no wave water and swam away from the shore. The water was calm and tender. Swimming demands practically no effort. She turned on the back and starred at the spectacular view of the tropical starry sky. Milky Way was recognized as a broad bright ribbon from one horizon to another. She lost the feeling of time facing this enormous space of the Universe. Compare to the infinite cosmos her problems shrinks to the level of funny nuisance practical jokes. Girl turned back determined back to the shore. It was quite a time as soon waves around apparently rise now to three feet at least.

Girl saw lights of the hotel area rather clear but had no idea of the distance to them. After about twenty minutes of rather strong efforts, she cannot be sure that the lights became any closer. In two hours lights of hotels at the shore were visible only when she was on the crest of the wave. In four hours she swallows salt ocean water already several times and her body refuses to move. Last her thought was that her mom will dismantle this happy island up to grains of sand. The idea brings no satisfaction. A few months later Natural Bridge, the most famous landmark n Aruba, collapsed that just coincident that in no superstitious way can be connected with Girl tragedy.

Boys returned home and sleep with nightmares. Soon later on next day he learned about Girl disappearance. The legal advice his father gave him, not to testify against himself, was perfectly reasonable but as stupid as it could be in the modern mass media world. Boy tried to present himself in a sort of respectable light but in reality, his behavior could be only characterized as whims of the spoiled infant. His story was mostly about denial instead of regret. Soon later on, Boy found himself in the center of world attention wanted to benefit from celebrity status. He finally settled down in jail for a crime only related to the disappearance of the Girl in a way that the story pushed him to be a sociopath if he wasn't one even before that tragic night.

High Hotels area in Aruba close to California Lighthouse.

Ruins of Natural Bridge in Aruba. Collapsed months after Natalee Holoway disappearance.

For the mass media, the story was a blockbuster hit. It includes every one hook to catch attention. The victim is a young innocent blonde next door beauty sweetheart. The protagonist is Mather Bear refusing to leave hostile territory until the mission to restore justice will not be completely similar to American troops in Iraq. A villain is a young person whose photo in some can subconsciously associate with another photo of a suicide bomber designated by media as a leader of the group. The bureaucracy of the Island is completely unprepared to deal with such crimes as murder considering that the homicide rate in Aruba is several times lower than in USA. It was pretty fast established that Boy and his entourage was last who saw Girl. And it was it. The question of what could realistically happen, what was the human story never was in the center of attention. Breaking news every day was who said what, what legal standard to convict Boy for murder or something else if possible. Every small detail was discussed by a panel of opinion makers. But nothing born nothing. No closure for anybody. Only big ado.

That is it.

What we can learn from it? Not too much really. The only consistent pattern I could deduce from the mass media coverage of Natalee Holloway disappearance is the less specific details are reported the more probability that you just wasting your time listening to the image of a talking head mumbling guesses from the screen. You know it yourself of course.

Feb. 27, 2022; 11:53 EST

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