ORANJESTAD, Aruba -- As the mystery of a missing Alabama honors student drags on, questions abound about the Aruban authorities' handling of the Dutch Caribbean island's highest-profile case in decades.
Why were the young men who were last seen with 18-year-old Natalee Holloway left free for days after she disappeared May 30, the last day of a high school graduation trip with 124 other students?
Why did police wait 16 days after she was last seen before searching the home of the Dutch teen flirting with her? Why did Aruban officials ask the FBI to send divers, who came to the island but never searched its waters?
Criminal specialists say these apparent mishaps could make it harder for Aruban investigators to crack the case.
Attorney General Caren Janssen refused to comment on the criticisms, saying only: ''I can't comment on the investigation until it's over. Investigators must be allowed to do their jobs."
Joran van der Sloot, 17, and brothers Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18, from Surinam were the last ones seen with Holloway, an honors student from Mountain Brook, Ala.
The three men told police that, after a night of eating, drinking, and dancing at Carlos' N' Charlie's restaurant, they took Holloway to a northern beach before dropping her off at her hotel around 2 a.m.
The three were questioned soon after she disappeared but were not arrested until June 9. Janssen said there were ''tactical reasons," and there was speculation authorities hoped the freed men might lead them to a clue.
That was an error, according to Joseph Pollini, a criminal justice professor at John Jay College in New York, where he spent 33 years as a homicide detective.
''Once released, it's problematic because somebody surely coached them," he said. ''A lawyer wouldn't be worth his weight in salt if he didn't tell them simply not to say anything." Pollini doubted any confession was now possible.
Authorities arrested two former hotel security guards, apparently because the young men told police they had last seen Holloway in the car park of her hotel being approached by a black security guard. The guards, both black, were released a week later, and one, Antonius John, said that while in jail one of the Kalpoe brothers told him they had never taken Holloway back to her hotel but had dropped her off together with van der Sloot at a beach next to the Marriott Hotel.
Investigators led a massive search of Malmok beach June 14.
Only on the following day did investigators search the van der Sloot house, seizing two vehicles, computers, and cameras.
''They should have immediately done a forensic sweep of van der Sloot's house, his car, his clothing, and done the same with the Surinamese boys," said Ron Watson, a retired Alabama police chief who runs a crime scene reconstruction business.
Police did not interrogate the Dutch suspect's father, Paul van der Sloot, until June 17. In a surprise move, they arrested him Thursday. A court appearance for the father, a judge in training on the island, was postponed from yesterday to today because the presiding judge was unable to make it to Aruba from nearby Curacao.
Authorities also have arrested a 26-year-old party boat disc jockey, Steve Gregory Croes. No one has been charged in the case.
Aruban authorities have defended their efforts, saying meticulous police work takes time. ''You have to build up an investigation. You can't just go in there like a cowboy," Janssen said last week when asked why investigators waited more than two weeks to search the van der Sloot home.