Opinion: Another disappeared American

POSTED: 08/12/11 7:19 PM

Aruba will probably never get rid of its Natalee Holloway past. The island finds itself once more in the crosshairs of American media as a result of the disappearance of Robyn Gardner, a 35-year old from Maryland. CNN already has a camera crew in Oranjestad, and Nancy Grace the vitriolic anchorwoman of the station’s Headline News segment has already wondered whether Aruba is becoming the new Bermuda triangle for pretty blondes.
And so Aruba shudders at the thought that its tourism industry will have to endure another blow from negative international media attention. On May 30, 2005, Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba. Joran van der Sloot remains the main suspect in this case, but he has never been charged and that won’t happen any time soon either because he is currently sweating in a prison in Peru where he awaits trial for the murder of Stephanie Flores. Van der Sloot allegedly murder her exactly five years after Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba.
The only similarity between Holloway and Gardner is that both are blond, but in the Gardner case the main suspect is an American, 50-year old Gary Giordano. There is no proof against him, but it has already been established that the man, who met Gardner on the Internet, has a criminal record in Maryland.
Nancy Grace will set her teeth in Aruba again, until the Gardner case is solved. The longer this takes the more damage the island will suffer at the hands of people like Nancy Grace.
The prosecutor in charge of the case is the former chef de poste in St. Maarten, Mr. Taco Stein. He was in St. Maarten when another American disappeared: Leta Cordes. That case has somehow managed to escape the potential damaging attention of Nancy Grace, and the island has not suffered any damage to its image as a result of it.
But it is only a matter of time before an American reporter starts adding things up. And then they will find that since 2005 two Americans have disappeared in Aruba (Holloway and now Gardner), one in Curacao (the vice-consul of the American embassy, James Hogan, in 2009), and two in St. Maarten: Leta Cordes in 2008 and Robert Brous in2010.
No matter how you look at it, that’s a lot of disappeared Americans. They have one thing in common and that is the fact that they literally disappeared. In St. Maarten not a trace was found after the disappearance of Leta Cordes and Robert Brous.
Altogether this is a bad report card for the islands. The Cordes-case seemed for some time to stumble towards a conclusion, after Leta’s husband Frank was arrested. But investigators never found a body, and in the end they had to let Cordes go. It is now officially a cold case that will probably never be solved.
That St. Maarten did not get the American media on its back like Aruba is for a large part due to the attitude of the Cordes family and friends. Robert Brous’ family also opted for a subdued approach. This does not mean that these disappearances go unnoticed, but few media have noticed that the Cordes-investigation went wrong from the get go, because it took quite some time before the prosecutor’s office started to approach it as a potential crime instead of a missing persons case. Taco Stein, who now has the Gardner-case on his hands as the solicitor-general in Aruba, was responsible for the delay. The precious time that was lost because of it – not in terms of day, but in terms of months – seriously hampered the criminal investigation that only started around May of 2008.
That won’t happen in Aruba, where Stein has already called on the FBI to obtain information about the victim and about suspect Gary Giordano. At the moment the prospects for a speedy solution are bleak because investigators have not been able to find Gardner – dead or alive.
All this makes clear for the umpteenth time how important it is to have all your ducks in a row as far as security and policing is concerned. It does not take a lot for cruise companies to deem a destination unsafe for its clients – and that’s the last thing we need right now.
The government in Aruba and the Aruban tourism authority are already reacting a bit spasmodic to the Gardner-case. Nobody wants to say anything about it; everybody refers for comments to solicitor-general Taco Stein. And Stein told Amigoe that he will only comment on the criminal aspects of the case and not on its possible impact on the island’s tourism industry.

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Another disappeared American by

Comments are closed.