herald

Thursday 5 December 2019

Family 'broken' as body of teen Nora is found less than 2km from resort

Family members arrive to see the body of Nora Quoirin, after it was brought to hospital by ambulance
Family members arrive to see the body of Nora Quoirin, after it was brought to hospital by ambulance
Nora Quoirin
Nora’s parents Meabh and Sebastien

Mystery still surrounds the bizarre disappearance and tragic death of missing teenager Nora Quoirin yesterday.

The 15-year-old's naked body was discovered less than 2km from a resort in the Malaysian rainforest where she vanished without trace more than a week ago.

Her family were described as being "absolutely broken" following the discovery.

The teenager's body was found by a volunteer who took part in the massive search operation shortly before 2pm local time yesterday, a day after the family had posted a €10,000 reward for information over her disappearance.

Her body was found close to a stream near the Lata Berembun waterfall in a mountainous area in the rainforest, just 1.6km from the Dusun eco resort.

Vacation

She was reported missing from there by her father on August 4, the first morning after the family of five - including an as yet unnamed brother and sister - arrived for a family vacation.

While police confirmed that she was unclothed, there were no signs of injuries or a struggle.

It emerged earlier in the week that Nora was likely barefoot when she disappeared and was wearing nightclothes.

National deputy police chief Mazlan Mansor said the body "was not in any clothings" and while it remained a missing persons case, police were looking into all possibilities including the "angle of criminal investigation".

The rugged area where her body was found had been searched previously by a massive search operation that swelled to around 350 people as fears for the missing girl grew over the past 10 days.

According to Matthew Searle, CEO of the UK-based Lucie Blackman Trust charity which is acting as a liaison between the London-based family and the media, Nora told her family that she wanted to see a waterfall during her holiday to Malaysia.

Acting on this previously undisclosed information, a volunteer searcher combed the area near the waterfall and found her body shortly before 2pm yesterday.

Nora's Belfast-born mother Meabh and her French father Sebastien endured the grim task of formally identifying their daughter's body which had been airlifted to the Tuanku Ja'afar Hospital in Seremban, about 70km from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

They were seen hugging in an attempt to comfort each other as they arrived at the hospital mortuary.

They were followed by Nora's aunts Eadaoin and Aisling Agnew and her uncle Michael along with other family members.

"They are absolutely broken," Mr Searle told the Herald.

Negri Sembilan police chief Datuk Mohamad Mat Yusop yesterday confirmed that the parents had positively identified the remains of their daughter at the hospital's mortuary, according to a report in the New Straits Times newspaper.

An autopsy is to be conducted at the hospital today that may shed some light on how she died.

Questions

However, many questions remain over how the special needs teenager vanished from the resort on the first night of a two-week family holiday and the subsequent discovery of her body nearby 10 days later.

This was despite a massive search party involving local tribesmen, a helicopter equipped with thermal imaging equipment, sniffer dogs, divers and drones.

A liaison officer from An Garda Siochana, officials from Scotland Yard as well as the UK's National Crime Agency and Interpol were also involved in the search for the schoolgirl.

A tape recording of Nora's mother with the heart-wrenching message: "Nora darling, I love you, Mum is here," was also played over megaphones in the jungle in an attempt to draw Nora out if she was lost.

Local police had acted on the theory that Nora's disappearance was that of a missing person's case, although they have not ruled out the possibility of foul play.

However Nora's parents said from the beginning that they believe their daughter was abducted and may have been taken from an open window of the cottage where they were staying in the sprawling resort.

They posted a €10,000 reward - donated by an anonymous donor from Belfast - on Monday for any information leading to their daughter's whereabouts.

Meanwhile, a forensics team cordoned off the area where the body was discovered after winching the young girl to a helicopter to remove her from the dense bush.

Mystery

Mr Searle said the area where Nora was found "may have been covered in the early part of the search".

But why her body wasn't found earlier - especially when sniffer dogs were deployed - remains a mystery.

"It may have been they just got lucky," he said of the grim discovery yesterday. However, how the young girl - who was born with the congenital brain defect holoprosencephaly and had severe developmental delays - died was not disclosed by the police, pending the outcome of today's autopsy.

"We have no indication as to how she died," said Mr Searle, who is speaking on behalf of the Quoirin family.

However, he said there were no reports of obvious damage to her body from a struggle, injury or mauling by an animal, he told the Herald.

"We heard the body is in good condition. We'll know more tomorrow," he said last night.

Meanwhile, her heartbroken family has appealed for privacy to come to terms with the tragedy.

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