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Saturday 14 December 2019

Elite garda team put on standby in Nora hunt as mum says thanks

Meabh Quoirin addresses the media and thanks search teams for their efforts in trying to find her daughter Nora. Photo: The Royal Malaysia Police via AP
Meabh Quoirin addresses the media and thanks search teams for their efforts in trying to find her daughter Nora. Photo: The Royal Malaysia Police via AP

A senior police officer involved in the search for missing Irish teenager Nora Quoirin has raised concerns about how long she can survive on her own.

The search for the 15-year-old is continuing, one week after she disappeared from a Malaysian jungle resort.

Hundreds of people are involved in looking for the teenager, who was born with the brain condition holoprosencephaly and has special needs.

Nora's mother Meabh has thanked the searchers.

"You have given up your time, especially at a special festival time," she said, referring to Hari Raya Haji, the Islamic "festival of sacrifice" celebrations.

Negeri Sembilan police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Mohamad Mat Yusop said some of those involved in the search had attended Hari Raya Haji prayers yesterday morning at a nearby mosque.

"However, this will not hamper the search," he said.

Ms Quorin's heartfelt thanks to searchers came as Jim Gamble, a former police officer who is advising the family, urged them to "consider the benefits of a financial incentive as a motivator and, if there is a criminal element to this, then it could help prompt someone's conscience".

Gamble, who investigated the disappearance of Madelaine McCann, said a reward was an "appropriate tactic" in a country with significant levels of poverty.

"I think the family needs to throw the kitchen sink at it and consider the benefits of a financial incentive as a motivator," he said.

An elite team of Garda hostage and kidnap specialists are now on standby to join the search if evidence emerges that Nora was abducted.

The team is attached to the National Negotiation Unit, set up last year as part of the Special Tactical Operations Command.

Much of its work is carried out in secret. Its detectives are highly trained in hostage and kidnap situations, violent stand-offs and negotiations with criminals and terrorists.

They have been deployed overseas in the past to secure the release of Irish citizens in abduction or extortion cases and work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

On the ground in Malaysia, a total of 317 search and rescue personnel were deployed on Saturday, with the search continuing through the night.

"So far, we have no credible leads on where she is, but we will continue with the search," Mr Mohamad told reporters at the site. "We are accepting information from all parties and our investigation is exploring all angles."

He said there was no evidence to indicate that Nora had been abducted, the local Star publication reported.

"We are very worried about her safety. We don't know how long she can survive," he said.

"The team is working diligently day and night to find her as soon as possible."

The police have checked the background of people in the area for criminal records.

"We have also questioned several people, as well as checked the homes of hotel staff," he said. "There is also no evidence that anyone has sighted Nora Anne anywhere."

Ms Quoirin and her husband Sebastien, a French-Irish couple who have lived in London for 20 years, said "terima kasih", or "thank you" in Malay, to those searching for her.

In a short speech, Ms Quoirin held back tears, as her husband stood beside her. In a video broadcast on local media, she said: "We want to say thank you to each and every one of you.

"We know you're searching night and day for Nora.

"We see you working so hard and also praying with us and being with us."

Ms Quoirin also praised the dedication and expertise shown by those looking for Nora. "To be with us here, it means the world to us," she said.

"We are so grateful for everything that you are doing for us, everyone who is helping here and not from here.

"We are extremely impressed by the effort, your expertise, your dedication and we hope you find Nora. And thank you so much and terima kasih."

Nora, who has an Irish passport, went missing last Sunday. The family have said they remain hopeful after police leading the investigation refused to rule out a "criminal element".

Police have set up a new hotline in the hope that some new information will come through, he added.

Officers believe the teen climbed out through an open window in the living room of the family's cottage and was still in the vicinity of the resort.

They are treating her as a missing person, but do not rule out a possible criminal element in her disappearance.

The Quoirin family, who have lived in London for 20 years, arrived on August 3 for a two-week stay at the Dusun, a small resort located in a durian orchard next to a forest reserve 63km south of Kuala Lumpur.

On Friday, gardai confirmed a liaison officer was being dispatched to assist with the investigation.

"An Garda Siochana have deployed a Garda liasion officer (GLO) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to assist the Department of Foreign Affairs, who are currently providing consular assistance to the family of Nora Quoirin.

"The Garda liaison officer will liaise as required with the Malaysian police, UK and French authorities to assist in the search for Nora Quoirin," a Garda statement said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Lucie Blackman Trust intelligence on ops@lbtrust.org or +44 800 098 8485.

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