A man who claimed he dug up and cremated the body of missing teenager Natalee Holloway to help his murder suspect friend has himself been killed while attempting to kidnap a woman, police have revealed.
The violent death of John Ludwick is the latest strange development in the hunt for Natalee, who was last seen getting into a car after leaving a nightclub at 1.30am on May 30 2005, the day she was due to fly home from a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island of Aruba.
Dutchman Joran van der Sloot remains the prime suspect in the case, but has never been charged with Natalee’s murder or disappearance.
He is, however, a convicted murderer, after being jailed for killing 21-year-old Stephany Flores Ramirez in Lima, Peru, on May 30 2010, the fifth anniversary of Natalee’s disappearance.
Ludwick, 32, appeared to offer a new lead in the case last year when he was shown on a TV documentary claiming that in 2010 he had helped his friend van der Sloot dig up and then dispose of Natalee’s body.
Ludwick was shown confessing that after van der Sloot offered him $1,500, he crushed up Natalee’s bones and took them, mixed with dog remains, to a crematorium where he paid a worker $200 in cash to let him cremate what he said was his pet.
In an extraordinary twist last month, however, the veracity of Ludwick’s claims were effectively questioned by a lawsuit launched by Natalee’s mother who accused the documentary makers of producing a pre-scripted “pre-planned farce” whose broadcast was "outrageous".
Beth Holloway said the series had been “acted out by a number of paid participants”, including Ludwick.
His death will now make it even harder to establish whether his claims as aired in the documentary were true.
Police in North Port, Florida, said that just before 7am on Wednesday morning Ludwick went to the home of a woman who had once been his roommate and who had spurned his attempts to start a romantic relationship.
North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor told WFLA: “As she’s getting out of the car, there he is. He wanted the keys to her car. What he had plans for after that is yet to be determined but it was certainly a very scary situation."
Mr Taylor, however, revealed that the woman fought back, grabbing Ludwick’s knife and stabbing him several times. Ludwick ran off, bleeding heavily, but was found a few blocks away and later died.
Mr Taylor said the woman would face no charges.
"From every ounce of evidence we have so far,” said Mr Taylor, “She was a victim in this case.
"This gentleman had some ill intentions, she wasn't going quietly, and it ended very bad for him.”
Mr Taylor could not say if any connection exists between Ludwick’s apparent failed attack and Natalee's disappearance, but he added: “When you look at this particular case, attempted kidnapping of a young girl, you go whoa, it seems eerily similar.”
It is understood that local detectives have contacted the FBI.
In August 2017 Ludwick featured in The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, a documentary mini-series which followed Natalee’s father Dave Holloway and his private investigator as they followed up new clues about what might have happened to the teenager.
In the series broadcast on Oxygen TV, Ludwick was shown explaining that he had crushed up Natalee’s unearthed bones so they weren’t recognisable as human, burning the skull to get rid of hair fibres.
He was filmed saying that after dog remains were added to the mix, he went to the crematorium and claimed his pet had died.
Ludwick was shown on the documentary saying that he and van der Sloot had then borrowed a fisherman’s boat and scattered the ashes at sea.
In the documentary series, his evidence was depicted as leading to the discovery of four bone fragments, which were tested to see if they came from Natalee, who lived in Mountain Brook, Alabama.
The credibility of what Ludwick said in the documentary was, however, cast into doubt by the lawsuit filed by Natalee’s mother Beth, who is divorced from Dave Holloway.
In her lawsuit, Ms Holloway accused Oxygen Media and production company Graden Media of pretending to report on the progress of an investigation as it was happening, when in fact everything had been pre-scripted, making the series a “pre-planned farce”, whose broadcast was “outrageous”.
In her lawsuit Beth Holloway claimed that at a point when the series portrayed Ludwick as being covertly recorded, he had “already signed a non-disclosure agreement [and] was a paid participant in the series and aware at all times that he was being taped for publication.”
The claims in the lawsuit have, however, been denied, with Oxygen issuing a statement defending the documentary and saying: “We were disappointed to learn of the complaint and its inaccurate depiction of how the series was produced, and we want to reiterate our deep compassion and sympathy for all members of the Holloway family.
“The documentary series was developed by a production company in close collaboration with Dave Holloway and his long-time private investigator. The show followed his continued search to find answers about his daughter Natalee from a lead he had received. We had hoped, along with Mr Holloway, that the information was going to provide closure.”
In October 2017 Oxygen revealed that only one of the four bone fragments had been found to be human and its DNA did not match that of Natalee.
Joran van der Sloot initially claimed that he left Natalee drunk and sleeping on a beach, but has since made – and then retracted – a series of claims, including that he got a friend to dump her dead or unconscious body in the sea and even that he sold the teenager into sex slavery.