'Criminal element' is possible, admit cops in missing Nora case
The family of a 15-year-old Irish citizen missing in Malaysia have said they remain hopeful after police leading the investigation refused to rule out a "criminal element".
The force is analysing finger- prints found in a resort cottage where Nora Quoirin was reported missing, despite previously saying there were no initial signs of foul play.
Nora, who lives in London with her Irish-French parents, disappeared from the Dusun forest eco-resort in Negeri Sembilan state on Sunday.
Her family released a statement yesterday afternoon in which they expressed their "deepest gratitude" to the Royal Malaysia Police and others helping the search.
The family's statement said: "We would like to thank our embassies, the local community and the staff here at the hotel and anyone else who has off-ered help to find Nora. We also welcome the assistance of the French, British and Irish police.
"We are completely overwhelmed by the support we have received from all over the world."
Nora's parents, Meabh and Sebastien, were "too upset to speak themselves at this time", said the statement released by The Lucie Blackman Trust and read by Nora's aunt, Eadaoin Agnew.
"This is extremely traumatic for the whole family," she said.
The family, including Nora's younger brother and sister, arrived at the resort about 65km south of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
They believe Nora, who has learning and developmental disabilities, was abducted.
The statement added: "We must remain hopeful. "Nora is still missing, and she is very vulnerable, and we need to do everything we can to bring her home."
Deputy police chief Che Zakaria Othman said a forensic team was analysing fingerprints found in the family's cottage.
The prints were at an open window in a downstairs hall, not in the bedroom upstairs where Nora was sleeping with her siblings.
Police added that they were "not ruling out any possibility" and they believe Nora is still in the area.
The rescue operation involves more than 200 people working around the clock.
Mr Zakaria declined to say if the window could be opened from the inside.
"Although we classified this case as a missing person we are not ruling out any possibility... the scale of investigation and the search and rescue is very big for a small place here," he told a news conference.
He said the investigation includes a possible criminal element.
"The rescue operation involves people working on shifts through the night, but police still have no clues as to Nora's whereabouts and are appealing for information," Mr Zakaria said.
However, he added: "There is no information to show that she has left the area."
Nora's family insisted in a statement on Tuesday that they did not believe she had wandered off on her own.
"Nora's family believe she has been abducted," the statement said.
"We are especially worried because Nora has learning and developmental disabilities, and is not like other 15-year-olds.
"She looks younger, she is not capable of taking care of herself, and she won't understand what is going on."
Her parents have lived in London for about 20 years.
Nora arrived with her family on Saturday for a two-week stay at the small resort in an orchard next to a forest reserve.
Some of her relatives were seen trekking on a hill in the search yesterday.
Police set up a checkpoint to block access to the resort owing to the search operation.
Officers have expanded the search to the riverbed at the foothill of the resort due to the possibility that Nora could head downhill to try to find water.
Local villagers and police dog teams have also been deployed to look for her.
Malaysian police have so far questioned at least 20 people during the operation.
As well as the 200 people searching for Nora, dogs and two drones are also scouring the surrounding thickly-forested area.
Police have also interviewed Nora's family and resort staff and swept the hotel room where she was last seen.
"Our forensics team has gone through the entire building, and the investigation process is still ongoing," Mr Zakaria added.