The mysterious death of Nora Quoirin

This file handout of a recent photo released by the Quoirin family on 5 August, 2019 shows the 15-year-old Franco-Irish teenager, Nora Quoirin. (AFP Photo)

By now many people around the world would have heard of the tragic fate of Franco-Irish teenager Nora Anne Quoirin who went vacationing with her family to the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. On 4 August, a day after checking in for the ill-fated holiday with her London-based family, the 15-year-old disappeared mysteriously from the Dusun Resort, an exclusive getaway surrounded by lush jungles and located not far from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. 

Her family believed the teen, who had learning difficulties, had been abducted but local police classified her sudden disappearance as just a missing persons case. 

On 13 August, nearly 10 days later, Nora’s body was found in a small stream in a ravine about 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) from the Dusun resort. An autopsy was carried out and foul play was ruled out. Instead, Malaysian police said there were signs that Nora suffered intestinal bleeding, but this was likely due to stress and having gone without food for days.

“There were no signs of rape. There are no suspicions of foul play, there were no signs of kidnapping or abduction,” explained Mohamad Mat Yusop, police chief of Negeri Sembilan, a state located in the Southern part of Malaysia.

Today, local police are adamant that no foul play took place. Nora Quoirin’s parents, however, say that there are still many questions which have yet to be answered. 

What could those unanswered questions be? 

The ASEAN Post (TAP) has decided to create a list of possible questions that have yet to be answered in the tragic case of Nora Quoirin. While this does not imply that we suggest foul play, TAP feels that the following questions should be raised. 

What was the sleeping arrangement of the family the night Nora Quoirin disappeared? 

The family stayed in the two-storey Sora House; one of seven bungalows located in the Dusun resort compound. The night she arrived at the resort, Nora had gone to sleep upstairs with her two younger siblings, presumably in her own room. 

Her father Sebastien discovered her missing from her room at around 8.30 a.m., the next morning. A downstairs window was found wide open. There was no evidence of forced entry. 

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Source: Various

Was there any CCTV footage of her leaving her room? 

Unfortunately, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the Dusun resort were limited to the reception area, thus no footage of Quoirin on the night of her disappearance is available. The Tourism, Arts and Culture minister of Malaysia, Mohammadin Ketapi said: “If you want to [run] a resort, you have the duty to have security at the hotel.” He also added its only common sense to do so.

Why did the Quoirin family believe that Nora was abducted?

On 5 August, Che Zakaria Bin Othman, the deputy police chief of Negeri Sembilan, said: "So far there's no indication of foul play, however, investigations are still ongoing." 

Quoirin’s family maintains the narrative that she was abducted as they do not believe Nora had wandered off. “She never goes anywhere by herself,” they said. “Nora would not know how to get help and would never leave her family voluntarily.” Nora’s limited mobility makes it less likely for her to have gone off alone.

Missing person charity, the Lucie Blackman Trust (LBT) also said they believed Nora had been abducted.

Former Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector Peter Kirkham said that investigators must work on every theory that fit the facts and all remaining possibilities until hard evidence is found to rule them out. 

Have the security guards or other staff been questioned by the police?

The Dusun resort does not have any security guards. The teen's disappearance was reported by the resort owner after one of Nora's family members informed him that she was missing. In a Facebook post, the resort's management says its employees are "extremely distressed and worried" about her disappearance and are assisting in the search.

The resort’s remote location may be great for tourists but being so isolated makes it harder for any witnesses to be found outside the resort compound.

Why was she found unclothed?

Nora Quoirin was reportedly found ‘unclothed’, in a hilly area with a ravine. It is understood that she was barefoot and wearing only undergarments when she disappeared, as those were the last clothes she was seen wearing by her parents. It is not clear what happened to her clothing.

Sean Yeap, a hiker who was part of the search team which found Nora's remains, said the body had not been covered in any foliage or hidden and was lying with her head on her hands.

Why was the body not found initially? 

The Search and Rescue (SAR) operations team comprised of personnel from various agencies including the police, K9 tracker dogs, Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Force, People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) and civilians. Drones and helicopters with heat-seeking cameras were also used in the search. 

The large number of people involved in the SAR operations including local trackers who are familiar with the challenging terrain of the jungle were not able to locate her. On Tuesday, a group of 24 volunteers made up of experienced hikers found young Nora’s body. A volunteer among them said he believes she could not have been in the spot for long because previous searches of the same area would have found her. 

It was however revealed in her autopsy that she died at least four days prior to her body being found. 

Were there any signs she had fallen down the ravine or could she have been placed there?

The family’s spokesman Matthew Searle, of the LBT, questions whether the body had been there all the time or “was the body dumped there afterwards?” 

Search team members found the body near a waterfall that the missing schoolgirl had excitedly talked about visiting. Sankara N. Nair, a lawyer for the family, said they “expect the police to do a thorough investigation into the incident, including criminal angles.”

Can stomach ulcer develop quickly, or did Nora have gastrointestinal issues before her disappearance?

Based on Nora’s post-mortem results, state police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop revealed that the official cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to duodenal ulcer complicated by perforation, meaning there was internal bleeding in the intestines due to an ulcer which was brought on by starvation. “The cause of death was due to ruptured intestines which could be because she had no food for a long period and also long-term stress,” Mohamad told reporters.

Perforation of a stomach ulcer can be life-threatening if left untreated. According to the Mayo Clinic, ulcers can be caused by a range of things, from H. pylori bacteria in the digestive tract to certain medications. Extreme stress is not a direct cause, but it can make an underlying ulcer worse. 

The TAP team understands that it could have been caused by her condition and how long a person can go without food before starvation, is largely subjective. However, this question is still pertinent to the case and has yet to be answered.

Were there other scratches or marks on her body?

Scratches were found on Quoirin’s legs. “There were some scratches and light wounds found on her leg. However, that did not point towards the cause of her death,” said the state police chief. No other information of injuries on her arms or face was revealed. 

“Several samples from Nora Anne’s body have been sent to the Chemistry Department to analyse for a more detailed post-mortem result,” Mohamad said. The girl’s parents are waiting for DNA and toxicology test results before taking further action.

Will the French conduct their own investigation, and will Malaysia cooperate?

The state police chief, Mohamad said that authorities from France, England and Ireland are working closely with the investigation. The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal probe into the death, local media in Malaysia reported. 

Charles Morel, the Quoirin family’s French lawyer said: “We have to be very cautious about the interpretation of the first result of the autopsy.” He added that “she wasn’t there [during earlier searches]. Someone put her there, to get rid of her. Can you imagine her walking 1.5 miles, naked and barefoot, over rocks, in the middle of the night? For me, that’s absurd.”

Despite speculation, the Malaysian police insists that the case is still classified as a missing persons case. 

In the dark 

Nora had special needs and learning difficulties. She suffered from a condition known as holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to develop normally. She had limited verbal communication skills and could only write a few words. 

“She was very shy, dependent on her mother and it’s not in her temperament to go out in the night after a long trip in a place she doesn’t know, in the jungle,” Charles Morel, was quoted as saying. 

She did not deserve what happened to her; dying in the dark, cold and alone. But uncovering as much of this mystery will perhaps provide some form of justice for Nora and closure for the Quoirin family. We are confident the authorities will do everything in their power to ensure this. 

TAP’s condolences and prayers go out to Nora Quoirin’s family and friends.

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Autopsy done on body of lost girl in Malaysia