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Archive for Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dutch police release suspect in Natalee Holloway case

May 24, 2006

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— The latest lead in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway evaporated Tuesday when Dutch police released a man identified by witnesses as having long, deep scratches on his face shortly after the Alabama teen vanished in Aruba nearly a year ago.

The suspect's lawyer said it was not hard to prove the story was nonsense.

The man, identified only as "Guido W.," 19, was freed unconditionally with the consent of Aruba prosecutors after six "long, hard days" of questioning, attorney Gerard Spong said. He was the ninth person arrested and jailed in the case. All have been freed for lack of evidence.

The suspect was a croupier at the casino in the Holiday Inn where the 18-year-old Holloway was staying when she disappeared May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip to the Dutch Caribbean island.

Guido W. was freed hours before a scheduled court hearing in The Hague on Aruba's request to transfer him to the island for further investigation. Spong said the Aruban prosecutor was persuaded there was an insufficient case to support the transfer request, and the hearing was canceled.

Guido W. was detained after five witnesses claimed to have seen him with deep, 3-inch-long scratches on his face that could have come from human nails, Spong said. But those witness accounts were delivered eight months after the disappearance, he said. Police had questioned the teenager three times before he left Aruba on June 8, and no one had reported seeing suspicious facial scars.

The defense also had testimony from the suspect's tennis coach that he was not scarred and photographs of him from that period, the lawyer said.

"It was obvious that this was a fake story," he said.

Spong said prosecutors had raised other reasons for their suspicions, including what they called Guido W.'s hasty departure from Aruba just nine days after Holloway's disappearance. But Spong said the young man's father booked the air ticket to the Netherlands a month earlier.

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