Natalee Holloway was 18 when she vanished on May 30, 2005, just as she was about to return to Alabama from a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean.
The disappearance resulted in a crazed press sensation across the United States and left her heartbroken parents with more questions than answers.
On May 26, 2005, more than 100 students from Mountain Brook High School and seven chaperones took the 5 hour flight to Aruba.
When Natalee landed, she began a five-day celebration of drinking and partying.
On the final day of the trip, Natalee and her friends headed to the casino on the second floor of the Holiday Inn hotel where they were staying.
This is where one of Natalee’s friends met Joran Van der Sloot, a 17-year-old Dutch student who was studying at the International School of Aruba.
Van der Sloot stayed with the group until later in the evening and was convinced to meet them at a club later in Oranjestad.
Natalee and her friends later attended the Carlos’ n Charlie’s nightclub with other Mountain Brook students. It was a known safe place for young girls as it was mainly made up of students.
Van der Sloot arrived at the nightclub with two friends at around midnight, Medium reports.
He and Natalee danced for the remaining hour the club was open. But as people began to leave and mill on the streets, Natalee was no where to be seen.
Her friends originally thought that her and Van der Sloot went to another club that was open later, but found that she wasn’t there either.
The worried classmates spent the next whole day in panic trying to locate her.
Back in the hotel room, Natalee’s passport and other belongings were still there, along with her mobile phone.
Some classmates claimed they saw her leaving the club with three men, in what they assumed was a taxi.
Natalee’s family flew over to Aruba as soon as they heard the news the following day.
They quickly obtained Van der Sloot’s full name and address from the Holiday Inn night manager and took the information to the police.
Police officers and the family rushed to the address, where the 17-year-old initially denied knowing the young student.
After further investigation he claimed he had dropped her back at the hotel after they had spent some time together.
Security footage from the hotel showed that Natalee hadn’t returned to the hotel that night.
A national search started immediately for Natalee and volunteers from Aruba and the US worked tirelessly for weeks.
After a week long search and thorough investigation, Van der Sloot and two friends were arrested on the suspicion of murdering the 18-year-old.
But shortly after, to the dismay of Natalee’s mother, a judge ordered the release of the three men on the condition that they remain in Aruba and cooperate with the police.
In September, Dutch police examined the laptops taken from the friends and Van der Sloot – finding conversations between the three about Natalee.
Investigators decided that Natalee had gone back to Van der Sloot’s apartment round the back of his apartment’s home.
The three men were again arrested in November 2007, this time on suspicion of manslaughter and causing serious bodily harm that resulted in the death of Natalee.
By December, all three had been released and not charged again due to a lack of evidence.
Shockingly in 2010, Van der Sloot told Natalee’s parents that he would reveal the location of their daughter’s remains if they gave him $250,000.
The FBI initially wired Van der Sloot $25,000 and set up a sting to catch him once a confession was made.
Van der Sloot told investigators that Natalee was buried by his father under the foundations of their family home.
But this turned out to be a hoax, and the burial spot was a vacant plot at the time of her disappearance.
“I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family. Her parents have been making my life tough for five years,” Van der Sloot told De Telegraaf.
As authorities were gathering evidence to arrest Van der Sloot for extortion and wire fraud, fled the country with the $25,000 and got a flight to Peru.
In a shocking turn of events on 30 May, 2010, Van der Sloot killed Stephany Flores Ramirez.
The 21-year-old Peruvian woman was grabbed by the neck when she began reading articles about him on the Internet, ABC reports.
“I did not want to do it. The girl intruded into my private life,” he told investigators, according to La Republica.
“She had no right.”
“I confronted her,” he added. “She was frightened, we argued and she wanted to get away. I grabbed her by the neck and I hit her.”
Van der Sloot confessed to killing Stephany because she had accessed his laptop and found pieces of information that could link him to the murder of Natalee Holloway.
In January 2012, Van der Sloot was charged with first-degree murder and robbery. He was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment for Flores’ murder.
Natalee’s family criticised Aruban police for the progress into their daughter’s disappearance.
But Police Commissioner Gerold Dompig hit back, claiming the family “had hindered” the investigation and caused the police to make early arrests without making a proper case.
The FBI continues to seek information on the disappearance of Natalee, who would be 34 years old today.