Mother fears cover-up after girl goes missing on break

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The Independent US

The disappearance of a teenage girl from Alabama during a "spring break" holiday with school friends in the Caribbean is continuing to frustrate local police and American FBI agents.

The girl's mother has said that if she doesn't see progress in the case soon, she may think authorities are protecting a teenage male being held by police.

Natalee Holloway, 18, vanished on 30 May after a night of drinking with local youths in a bar and nightclub on the island of Aruba. Efforts at solving the mystery have come to nothing. Of the five men arrested, two ­ Antonius "Mickey" John and Abraham Jones, both former hotel security guards ­ have now been freed and nobody has so far been charged.

Ms Holloway travelled to the tiny Dutch protectorate with 124 classmates to celebrate their graduation from high school. When the group, accompanied by seven adult chaperones, gathered at the airport to fly home, Ms Holloway, who is 5ft 4in, failed to show up.

Information provided by one of the two security guards led to a search of a swampy area close to the Marriott hotel and near a beach favoured by loving couples. But no trace of the missing girl was found, officials on the island said.

Ms Holloway was last seen in Carlos 'n' Charlies, a rowdy and popular bar near her hotel, on the night in question. She allegedly left with three young men, who are now still in custody, one of whom is a 17-year-old of Dutch nationality and who is the son of a senior official on the island's judiciary. The teenager was said to have been kissing Ms Holloway as they left the club.

Few now imagine that Ms Holloway will be found alive, and her disappearance on Aruba has turned a spotlight on the tradition in America of allowing graduating teenagers to flee their home towns at the end of school for days of partying in faraway places. Mexico and the Caribbean islands are favourite destinations in the annual migration known as "spring break".

While young people make similar treks the world over, ­ witness British youths flocking to Ibiza and other Mediterranean hotspots ­ the difference here has to do with legal drinking ages. In the US, you have to be 21 to go to a bar. Young people, anxious to be liberated from the strictures of the law and of their parents, often travel abroad to enjoy nights of partying and drinking.

Aruba has long had a reputation as one of the safest destinations in the Carib-bean, with low crime rates and easy attitudes. It stands in stark contrast with Jamaica, for instance, where violent crime is endemic. But, like most of the islands, it has a drinking age of 18.

Also under scrutiny is the role played by the "chaper-ones". The school graduates were obliged to sign legal waivers saying that the adults were not responsible for their safety ­ a detail that has caused some Americans to call into question the wisdom of her parents in allowing her to go.

Ms Holloway's mother, Beth Holloway Twitty, said if she doesn't see progress soon, she may think authorities are protecting the Dutch youth. But the island's Prime Minister, Nelson Oduber, said: "Nobody stands above the law."