herald

Sunday 8 December 2019

'Nora Darling, I love you, mum is here' is blared in jungle search

  • Family record message for police to use on megaphones
  • Tribespeople brought in to help find missing Irish teen
A police dog unit looks for clues as messages to missing Nora from her mum Meabh were played over megaphones. AP photo
A police dog unit looks for clues as messages to missing Nora from her mum Meabh were played over megaphones. AP photo

The heart-wrenching message "Nora darling, I love you, mum is here" reverberated over megaphones in the Malaysian jungle yesterday as the search for missing teenager Nora Quoirin entered its fifth day.

As darkness fell over the Dusun tropical rainforest last night, there was still no sign of the 15-year-old girl who vanished from an eco resort about 60km from the capital Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

The teenager, whose mother Meabh hails from Belfast, was discovered missing from the upstairs bedroom at the resort she shared with two siblings on Sunday morning by their French father, Sebastien Quoirin.

Criminal

A massive search involving around 200 personnel has failed to yield any clues as to her disappearance, which Malaysian police have categorised as a missing persons case.

However, they have not ruled out a more sinister and possibly criminal motive.

Acting on the theory that Nora, who has learning difficulties and developmental delays, wandered into the jungle and got lost, police recorded her mother's reassuring voice and broadcast it over megaphones into the jungle.

But by sunset, which fell shortly before 7.30pm local time last night, Malaysian police said they had "nothing positive to report".

Nora's parents believe she may have been abducted because it would be entirely out of character for the very shy and introverted girl "who never goes anywhere by herself" to venture out on her own.

They issued a fresh appeal on Wednesday for any information.

Local tribespeople specialising in tracking also joined the search team as they trekked through the rainforest shouting her name.

Members of the huge search team scour the Malaysian rainforest for signs of Nora Quoirin. AP photo
Members of the huge search team scour the Malaysian rainforest for signs of Nora Quoirin. AP photo

The search team used the recording in the hope that a familiar voice might draw Nora out if she is in the jungle.

"This morning when we went out, we played the recording using loudhailers," Mohamad Mat Yusop, police chief of southern Negeri Sembilan state, told reporters.

Voices of other family members have also been recorded and would be used, he said.

Police said they believe Nora is still in the area of jungle where the search is focused.

They are operating on the theory that she may have left the resort of her own accord and could now be stranded in a small 2.5-square mile area of the rainforest.

A helicopter with thermal imaging equipment is being deployed to aid the 267 searchers, divers, drones and sniffer dogs already involved in the search.

Nora and mum Meabh. Photo: PA
Nora and mum Meabh. Photo: PA

About 20 people, including Nora's family and resort staff, have been questioned by police. Fingerprints taken from a window frame at the resort are also being analysed.

Positive

Nora's aunts Aisling and Eadaoin Agnew, from Belfast, and her uncle Michael Agnew have joined the Quoirin family in Malaysia. Eadaoin urged supporters to stay positive.

"We ask everyone to keep Nora in their thoughts, and to continue to support the ongoing search for her," she said in a video released by the Lucie Blackman Trust. The UK charity is acting as a liaison between the media and the family, who are not giving any press interviews at this time.

"Nora is still missing, and she is very vulnerable, and we need to do everything we can to bring her home," Eadaoin said.

She described how Nora's disappearance had left the family deeply traumatised.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said the Quoirins are "living every family's nightmare".

Speaking on RTE Radio's Morning Ireland programme yesterday, Mr Gamble said cases in which children go missing abroad are very rare.

"Given that she hasn't been found doesn't mean that there isn't hope," he said.

"There is a strong chance she could be lost, unconscious, trapped in undergrowth somewhere. That is the type of fuel needed to keep pressing on in the search."

Mr Gamble said he is confident that police in Malaysia are doing everything they can to find Nora.

Fearful

He said they would be looking at a structured search for a missing person, but there may also be a criminal element, which police will be investigating.

He said it is possible that her disappearance was an "opportunistic abduction", in which Nora was deliberately taken after a chance arose.

It is a theory that Nora's French grandfather, Sylvain Quoirin, suggests may be the correct line of inquiry to pursue.

"In my opinion, the adventure escapade line of inquiry is not at all valid," he told the BBC, adding that his grand-daughter is "very shy, very reserved, very fearful".

Local English language newspaper the New Straits Times yesterday reported how Nora's strange disappearance "has raised questions". It cites locals as being "puzzled by the possibility the girl could have strayed from the resort".

"This is the first case of a missing person at this resort because if you heard the case of missing trekker in Gunung Berembun, it's normal," the newspaper quoted a local tribesman who is taking part in the search as saying.

He said it was impossible for Nora to get into the thick jungle, let alone survive for a long time.

"The resort is not monitored, it's all at one's own risk," the man added.

The newspaper said Dusun is a private nature resort 16km from the nearest town.

Deputy police chief SAC Che Zakaria Othman told the newspaper that the search party tracker unit "has also been mobilised and so far there has been no clue and no element of foul play", adding that the search area had been extended to 12km from the resort.

It also quoted the chair of the local Women Affairs, Family and Welfare Committee who said she had tried to meet with the Quoirin family to offer support but they are too traumatised.

"I have tried to meet the parents of the missing girl but they do not want to see anyone for now," she said.

A statement released by the Lucie Blackman Trust, a charity which helps families of those missing overseas, said: "This is extremely traumatic." Officials from the trust could not be reached for comment last night.

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