The Search For Natalee Holloway: A Producer's Diary - Day 1
Natalee Holloway disappeared while on vacation in Aruba
This is the first in a series journal entries written by AMW correspondent Rick Segall as he searched in Aruba with Dave Holloway, Natalee Holloway's father, and the EquuSearch team.
For days I've been preparing for my trip to Aruba. Tim Miller, the director of EquuSearch has invited me down to join the search for Natalee Holloway. EquuSearch is an amazing group of volunteers and experts who travel the world to locate missing persons. Tim started EquuSearch after his own teenage daughter was abducted and murdered. He has become close friends with Dave Holloway, Natalee's father. The men developed a strong bond over their shared tragedies.
I can't even fathom what Dave Holloway is going through -- returning to Aruba five months after his daughter was last seen alive, still holding onto the hope of finding her. Police have told Dave that the night after Natalee's disappearance, a boat was launched from an input just down the beach from the Holiday Inn where Natalee stayed. Yesterday, Dave went to see the spot for himself, and I still can't believe what he stumbled upon.
Dave said that seeing the cross unraveled the thread of hope
Memorial To Natalee
Dave Holloway at the makeshift memorial for his daughter, Natalee
As Dave walked down the beach, he happened upon a small wooden cross. When he looked closer, Dave noticed a rosary and the initials "N.H." carved in the corner. Dave said the image hit him like a punch in the stomach. It was a sobering dose of reality. Dave said that seeing the cross unraveled the thread of hope that his family has been holding onto -- the hope that Natalee may be coming home alive.
An Important Clue?
Today, the crew and I went back with Dave Holloway to the makeshift memorial. To most people the cross might seem like a touching tribute to the missing teenager. But the more Dave told me, the more I began to believe this cross might be an important clue in the search for Natalee.
Here's why: Just 300 yards away from the boat launch is a series of fishing huts that have become infamous on the island. In sworn statements, the three lead suspects in Natalee's disappearance -- Joran van der Sloot, Satish and Deepak Kalpoe -- told police that they left Natalee at those fishing huts the night of her disapperance.
But the news gets worse. According to police the huts were broken into around the time of her disappearence; a large knife and a huge steel fishing cage were stolen. Publicly, the police aren't linking the events. But they've asked Tim Miller to bring a deep sea search team to scan the entire coast near the boat launch -- keeping an eye out for a fishing cage.
AMW correspondent, Rick Segall, accompanied Dave Holloway to the makeshift cross
As hard as I try, I can't imagine that the makeshift memorial is just a random coincidence. Yes, there is widespread media attention on the fishing huts a few hundred yards away. But why would someone put the cross near the boat launch unless they knew the significance of this area? It certainly adds credibility to the tips indicating that something sinister happened from that very spot.
The cross has become a sort of headstone by default for Dave. It's the closest thing that the Holloways have to a grave. The emotion while we were there was just overwhelming, and Dave was doing his best to hold it together. That cross was obviously put there by someone who knows something or maybe someone with a guilty conscience.
But it now becomes obvious why Deputy Police Chief Dompig wants the EquuSearch team to search the waters off this stretch of beach. That search is now underway. I will join it tomorrow in the hopes that the ocean floor holds some answers and some closure.
Police in Tennessee have issued an AMBER alert for 6-year-old Mary Alice Winkler.
Patricia Winkler was reported missing on March 22, 2006.
Mary Alice Winkler may be traveling with her mother, Mary Winkler.
EquuSearch: A Recovery Team »
Natalee Holloway -- Case File »
The Search For Natalee Holloway: A Producer's Diary - Day 3 »
The Search For Natalee Holloway - A Producer's Diary - Day 2 »
Searching For Natalee Holloway - New Clues? Or Old Rumors? »