The forensic scientist in charge of testing human remains linked to missing teenager Natalee Holloway says he hopes his work finally brings ‘peace and justice’ to her family.
Dr Jason Kolowski tells DailyMail.com he has been working closely with Natalee’s father Dave Holloway and regularly communicating with her mother Beth, who are both ‘hopeful’ that this is the breakthrough they have been waiting for.
He says both parents are desperate to see an end to the case 12 years after their 18-year-old daughter vanished on the island of Aruba while on a trip to celebrate her high school graduation.
Dr Kolowski, who runs his own firm Forensic Insight Consulting LLC, told DailyMail.com: ‘Having a chance to be involved directly with TJ Ward and his investigators, Dave Holloway and his family, and getting to know the history and the possibilities of locating some remains for testing, that was of huge excitement for me.
Missing: Natalee Holloway, 18, vanished while on a trip with friends to the Carribean getaway destination in Aruba to celebrate her high school graduation on May 30, 2005 (Pictured right on a night out on the island)
‘From the perspective of a father, from the perspective of another human being and seeing what Dave and his family have been through with this, I really do hope that something can be resolved here, not only where he can have some peace but ultimately maybe some justice as well.’
Dr Kolowski, 41, has analyzed the bone fragments on behalf of the Holloway family and has already made significant inroads – discovering that the remains belong to a single individual, Caucasian and of European descent.
He’s in the process of conducting further mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests on the remains.
Dr Jason Kolowski, 41, who runs his own firm Forensic Insight Consulting LLC, is in the process of conducting mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests on the remains to see if they match a saliva sample provided by Natalee’s mother
The mtDNA test traces a person’s matrilineal ancestry using the DNA in his or her mitochondria – a structure that sits inside cells of all body parts.
This type of DNA is passed down by the mother unchanged, to all her children, both male and female.
If the mtDNA inside the bone fragments matches that in the saliva provided by Beth Holloway, that will be conclusive evidence that Natalee’s remains have been found.
Dr Kolowski, a former Forensic Laboratory Director of the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences, said it was a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstance that has brought everyone to this point.
He said Dave Holloway’s team cold-called him earlier this year after reading about his expertise online.
‘There was no indication that there was ever going to be possible remains found, yet when they were they happened to be bone samples and my deepest area of expertise is in mitochondrial DNA analysis,’ he explains.
‘It was almost like these perfect storms came together and said, this was the right place, this was the right time, these are the right people to be involved.’
The scientist says he’s using a ‘trusted’ third party lab for the testing and once the results come through he can begin his expert analysis.
A tip from from an informant named Gabriel, a former roommate of Joran van der Sloot’s best friend John Ludwick alleged van der Sloot killed Natalee and his father Paulus helped him dispose of the body (Paulus and Joran in December 2007 after the young man was released from custody)
Suspect: Joran van der Sloot (pictured left with John Ludwick) is now in prison in Peru for murdering another young woman, but the evidence of informant ‘Gabriel’ (right) could bring new hope of solving the mystery of Natalee Holloway
‘We’re going to have statistical probability and a confidence level that this is Natalee or not,’ he said.
‘We’re waiting on the lab to finalize the data which they will deliver to me and I will try to turn the data around into results which I will then deliver to Dave and TJ.
‘There is a personal hope that this is Natalee, but only because I have met Dave and I have had communications with Beth and I really have become to know the story of what they’ve been through and the struggles they have been through.
‘As a forensic scientist you try not to let your personal emotions become involved with a case, because you don’t want to introduce any kind of bias. I really want to put the truth forward.’
The nature of mitachondrial DNA means that there will not be a definitive scientific answer the bones are Natalee’s.
Mitachondrial DNA proves that a bone or other material comes from a child of a particular mother because mitachondria are inherited from the mother and are generally identical in all her children.
If there is a match to Natalee’s mother’s sample, it will show that the remains come from one of her children.
Given that the Holloways know that only one of their children is missing, that will allow them to know that the bones are Natalee’s.
‘We do have a sample from Beth Holloway and we know mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited, so Natalee and her brother would both have the same mitochondrial DNA as their mother.
‘It tends to be an exact match, but there are times where we see what we call a wobble, which basically means there could be a mixed-base type of scenario, but as long as one of those bases matches the sequences we are targeting then we are still okay.
Previous effort: In 2005 Joran van der Sloot was taken in handcuffs to locations near where Natalee Holloway was last known to have been seen, but was not charged due to lack of evidence
‘Unlike normal DNA typing where it’s gonna be very black and white, it’s a yes or a no, but in mitochondria you are allowed to have one or two differences.’
Dr Kolowski is used to working on major criminal cases like this one.
A career forensic scientist, he worked from 1999 to 2012 for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York.
The 9/11 atrocity put the lab at the cutting edge of identifying human remains, and it is still working to identify remains recovered from the site of the Twin Towers.
Just two months after 9/11 he also helped in the identification of victims in the devastating American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Queens, New York.
The commercial jet carrying 251 passengers and nine crew members accidentally crashed shortly after take off into the neighborhood of Belle Harbor, killing everyone on board on November 12, 2001. Only a dog was killed on the ground.
Dr Kolowski was also director of Washington D.C.’s forensic science laboratory from 2012 to 2015, when he set up his own consulting company.
Reconstruction: The new Oxygen documentary follows Dave Holloway’s trip to Aruba, which included a dig at a spot on the island where bone fragments were found. It showed footage reconstructing what vand der Sloot and Ludwick were alleged to have done
Source: An informant called Gabriel (right) mat Dave Holloway (left) after making secret recordings of John Luwdick in which he apparently confessed to helping dispose of Natalee’s body. The information led to the trip to Aruba and the discovery of the bone fragments
The Cornell and CUNY graduate has also written a textbook on forensic science and in New York, helped set up the city’s first mitochondrial DNA lab.
Natalee was last seen on May 30, 2005 by her classmates in Aruba leaving a nightclub with Joran van der Sloot – a 17-year-old Dutch honors student living on the tropical island.
No trace of her body has ever been found.
The new information which led to the discovery of remains came from an informant named Gabriel, a former roommate of Van der Sloot’s best friend John Ludwick.
Van der Sloot – who is currently in prison in Peru serving a 28-year sentence for the 2010 murder of 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores Ramírez – has long been a suspect in Natalee’s disappearance.
A saliva sample of Natalee’s mother Beth Holloway is undergoing tests to see if the remains have a mitochondrial match
Gabriel told Dave Holloway that, according to Ludwick, his daughter was buried in a park near her hotel on the island – a sequence of events that marked one of the biggest breaks in the 12-year history of the case.
Ludwick apparently told Gabriel that Van der Sloot disposed of Natalee’s body with help from his father Paulus, a judge on the island, after the teen choked to death on her own vomit soon after she was given a drink that had been spiked with GHB. Paulus has since died.
Van der Sloot revealed his actions to Ludwick, who then repeated the information to Gabriel while the two were living together in recent years.
Dave announced last week while appearing on Today that he followed up on that tip, and soon after remains were found.
But he said he is being careful however to not rush to any conclusions.
According to Aruba Public Prosecutor Dorean Kardol, the discovery never happened.
He told the Huffington Post that ‘no human remains were found’ in the area Dave pointed out.
‘During an investigation by police in an area indicated by Mr. Holloway, we found remains, but they were found to be from animals,’ Kardol said.
Dave has long been a critic of the investigation into the disappearance of his daughter conducted by the Aruban authorities and slammed the prosecutor’s comments as ‘misleading’.
The discovery is being chronicled in a docu-series on Oxygen called: The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway.