New arrest in Bonaire abduction case

New arrest in Bonaire abduction case

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Police in Bonaire have arrested a fifth person in connection with the death of Marlies van der Kouwe, a Dutch citizen who disappeared on the Caribbean island last month.

The 25-year-old man was arrested in the island's capital, Kralendijk. Police also searched two premises in the capital. Three of the five people arrested in connection with the case are still in custody.
The body of the 24-year-old pharmacist's assistant was discovered on Friday. She disappeared on 21 September after leaving a beach party to cycle home.

Police search for Marlies van der Kouwe
When the news broke, parallels were quickly made between this case and that of Natalee Holloway, the American high school student who disappeared on Aruba in 2005. However,  police on Bonaire have dismissed the similarities and did not even consult their Aruban colleagues on the case.
Ms Van der Kouwe's body will be flown back to the Netherlands in the second half of this week. Her parents, who travelled to Bonaire straight after their daughter's disappearance to help the investigation, will accompany her. Police chief John Schagen says: "They were shocked but relieved to a certain extent that there was clarity about her fate."
Hurricane Omar
Her decapitated body was discovered five kilometres from where she disappeared after an evening out in a beach bar in Kralendijk. It's thought that the heavy rains brought by Hurricane Omar uncovered parts of her body lying in a shallow grave in a bushy area near a rubbish dump.
Marlies van der Kouwe
Personal belongings were also found. Dental records were used to identify the body and DNA samples are under examination to confirm the findings. On Saturday the Netherlands Forensic Institute sent an expert to Bonaire to lay the body parts or skeleton parts together. An NFI pathologist will conduct a further examination when the body is returned to the Netherlands.
Police criticised
Public Prosecutor David van Delft will not reveal what the cause of death was, although forensic evidence does indicate how she died. He called the police investigation "a brilliant, tactical operation".
Nevertheless, the police has been criticised in the case. It was 36 hours before the police started looking for Ms van der Kouwe, in spite of witnesses seeing her dragged from her bicycle on her way home and friends and colleagues quickly raising the alarm. There has been a internal investigation, but the results of this are as yet unknown.
Five arrests
Five men have been arrested in connection with the case. The main suspect Ryan Pieters (27) has been transferred to Bon Futuro prison on Curaçao, where there are better facilities to hold detainees for longer periods. He is said to have been convicted of taking hostages and rape before. His brother was released after a short detention.
                Bonaire at sunset - photo flickr by Warnicke
The Dutch government will help foot the bill for the murder investigation of Ms Van der Kouwe. As Bonaire does not have the financial resources to pay the costs, Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has said they would be covered under his budget.
The small, close-knit community on Bonaire is keeping mum on the case. The islanders fear the media attention generated by the case will affect the island's tourist industry. In this sense, the case is very similar to the Holloway case.
Nicola Chadwick
Radio Netherlands

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