(CNN) — Authorities in Aruba said Tuesday they have dropped the case against three men in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway for lack of sufficient evidence.
“No charges will be brought against them,” the Aruban Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement, referring to Joran van der Sloot, 20, and brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe, 20 and 21, respectively.
Throughout the investigation, the three have maintained their innocence.
Holloway, 18, has not been seen since she left an Oranjestad, Aruba, nightclub on May 30, 2005, with the three young men.
She was on the island with about 100 classmates celebrating their graduation from Mountain Brook High School in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, but failed to show up the following day for her flight home.
Acting on what the statement described as “new evidence” compiled over eight months, authorities last month rearrested the three men.
But the effort proved fruitless. “The period of custody did not bring the final breakthrough in this investigation,” the statement said. “All three suspects claimed their right not to give any statement at all.”
The Court of Appeal ruled that there was not enough evidence to show that Holloway died as a result of a violent crime, and it ordered the suspects released. Watch a report on the dropped case against the trio »
Since then, the Public Prosecutor’s Office concluded there was insufficient evidence to convince a court “that a crime of violence against Natalee Holloway had been committed nor that her death has been caused by involuntary actions by either of the suspects,” the statement said. The office said it “expects that if this case would be tried in court it would lead to an acquittal of all three suspects on these various charges.” See a timeline of how the case has developed »
In addition, it said, there was insufficient evidence to make a case that the high school graduate had been sexually abused.
Van der Sloot’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told CNN that the decision was “vindication” for his client.
“It’s about time,” said Tacopina, a New York attorney. “They have no case because they have no evidence. They have no evidence because he’s innocent.”
“It’s a cruel nightmare for those who really want conclusion and meaning to have their hopes raised and inevitably dashed,” said Theodore Simon, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lawyer who has followed the case for CNN.
Still, the prosecutor’s office and investigators believe “that any scenario beyond the one that implicates these three suspects has either been falsified or is proven to be highly unlikely,” the Public Prosecutor’s Office said.
The three men were held on suspicion of manslaughter, or assault and battery resulting in Holloway’s death, authorities said.
Though the charges have been dismissed, “this does not imply that, if new serious evidence were to be found, this case could never be tried in court again.”
It would be possible to do so under the statute of limitations, a six-year period for involuntary manslaughter and 12 years for homicide.
All three suspects, who were arrested and released during the initial investigation in 2005, were arrested again November 21, with authorities citing new evidence against them.
That evidence has not been disclosed, but Hans Mos, the chief public prosecutor in the Dutch Caribbean island territory, said at the time the evidence was gathered after re-examining existing information, including cell phone records and text messages exchanged the night Holloway disappeared.
“I’m sad to say that I expected that these recent arrests would not lead to any final conclusions,” Simon said.
“The reference to new information has yet to be fully described,” he added. “It may give new meaning to the word ‘new.’ That may be a variation of old information, with perhaps a splinter of something very different.”
The Kalpoes told police they dropped Holloway and van der Sloot off near a lighthouse on the northern tip of the island after they left a nightclub. Van der Sloot’s mother, Anita, has said her son told her he was on the beach with Holloway but left her there because she wanted to stay. E-mail to a friend
CNN’s Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.