Malaysia

Missing in Malaysia: search for vulnerable schoolgirl Nóra Quoirin enters 8th day

Update: After a ten-hour postmortem on Nóra’s body, which was found in the jungle on Tuesday, Malaysian police said there was no evidence of foul play.

Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusof said: “The cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to a duodenal ulcer complicated with perforation.”

There was no evidence to indicate that Nóra was abducted or raped, he said. The bleeding in Nora’s intestine was most likely caused by prolonged hunger and stress, the police chief said, adding that the pathologists dated Nóra’s death as two or three days before her body was found, “not more than four days”.

 

Meabh Quoirin is comforted by her huband Sebastien as she thanks search-and-rescue teams for all they have done to try and find her daughter Photo credit: The Royal Malaysia Police/AP.

The search for Franco-Irish teenager Nóra Quoirin enters its eighth day today (Sunday). Yesterday search-and-rescue teams scoured a narrowed-down area and rechecked places already examined, including the river that runs through the jungle next to the resort from which the schoolgirl disappeared.

It is now a week since Nóra’s father, Sebastien, went into his daughter’s bedroom at the Dusun resort and discovered that she was missing. The family had only checked in to the resort the previous day, intending to stay for a two-week holiday.

Over the past seven days, hundreds of people have been searching the jungle for 15-year-old Nóra, who has learning and developmental disabilities and is particularly vulnerable.

Yesterday, Nóra’s mother Meabh thanked search-and-rescue teams for all they have done so far to try and locate her daughter.

Being comforted by her husband while she spoke, and clearly struggling with her emotions, Meabh Quoirin said: “We want to say thank you to each and every one of you. We know you are searching night and day for Nóra.”

She added: “We see you working so hard and also praying with us, being with us. We know you have given up your time, especially at a special festival time, to be with us here. It means the world to us and we are so grateful for everything that you are doing for us, everyone here and everyone who is helping who is not here.

“We are extremely impressed with the effort, your expertise, your dedication and we hope you find Nóra, and thank you so much. Terima kasih (thank you).”

This was the first time that Nóra’s mother had spoken publicly about her daughter’s disappearance. The Lucie Blackman Trust, which supports British nationals in crisis overseas, has been helping the Quoirins to deal with the media.

Nóra’s family believes that she has been abducted. Police say the case of Nóra’s disappearance is still officially that of a missing person, and there is no evidence of foul play, but they add that they are ruling nothing out.

Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop said yesterday that the search area has been reduced from six one-kilometre-radius zones to four. However, more personnel have been drafted in, including members of the elite 69 Commando unit of the Royal Malaysian Police, also known as VAT 69.

More than three hundred people are now searching the jungle next to the Dusun resort, which is located about 63 kilometres south of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

On Friday, Nóra’s family issued a statement, going into great detail about the kind of person she is.

“Nóra is a very special person,” they said. “She is fun, funny, and extremely loving. With her family, she is very affectionate – family is her whole world and she loves to play games, like Cat Bingo, with us. She likes to tell us silly jokes and wear clever, colourful t-shirts. She is not like other teenagers. She is not independent and does not go anywhere alone.”

The family explained that Nóra’s verbal communication is limited. “Nóra can read like a young child, but she cannot write more than a few words. She has a good memory, but she cannot understand anything conceptual She is unable to do maths and so things like money are impossible to manage,” the family said.

Nóra’s family explained that she cannot make or receive phone calls independently, that she can wash and dress herself, but cannot manage buttons, and that she struggles to wash her hair. At school, she is learning to ride a bicycle properly.

“Nóra likes to walk with her family, but her balance is limited and she struggles with coordination. She has been to Asia, and many European countries before, and has never wandered off or got lost,” her family said.

Nóra’s relatives explained that she was born with holoprosencephaly, which, they say, means that her brain is small. Holoprosencephaly is a rare congenital brain malformation resulting from incomplete separation of the right and left hemispheres.

“All her life she has spent a lot of time in hospital,” Nóra’s family explained in their statement. “When she was born, she needed operations to help her breathing. She has specialists that monitor her growth, her physical abilities and her strength, and especially her mental capacity.

“Nóra has always needed dedicated specialist educational provision, and now attends a school for children and young people with learning and communication difficulties.”

Nóra and other members of her family are bilingual and bicultural, her relatives added in their statement yesterday. “Nóra is very proud that she can speak French as well as English.”

Nóra, her family says, is very sensitive. “Outside the family, Nóra is very shy and can be quite anxious. Every night, her special time is for cuddles and a night-time story with her mum. And she was extremely excited about the family holiday in Malaysia,” the family added.

Questioned on Friday about the living room window through which police think Nóra may have exited the guest house, the deputy police chief for Negeri Sembilan, Che Zakaria Othman, said that the window could be opened from outside if not locked on the inside.

Police found unidentified fingerprints on the window that are being analysed.

Photo supplied by the Negeri Sembilan police.

To aid in the search for Nóra, a recording of her mother’s voice is being played via loudhailers. Search teams are also playing the recording of Meabh’s voice on their mobile phones as they go through the jungle.

Expert indigenous trackers from the Senoi Praaq special unit are involved in the search operation and helicopters and drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras have been deployed.

Police have confirmed that they are liaising with Interpol about Nóra’s disappearance.

Irish police have sent an officer to Kuala Lumpur to assist Ireland’s department of foreign affairs and liaise with Malaysian police and the British and French authorities.

Major questions are why, and how, if she was not abducted, would Nóra climb out of a window, not least as she has problems with balance and coordination. If she was kidnapped, how did her abductors manage to get her out of the guest house, and perhaps down a spiral staircase from her bedroom, without the other members of the family noticing?

There is a theory being mooted in some quarters that Nóra has been abducted by traffickers, but there is no evidence.

There is much talk among locals in the villages near the Dusun resort about the Orang bunian, supernatural beings said to be invisible to most humans except those with spiritual sight. The theory that Nóra is in the forest, but is hidden by the spirits, is taken seriously by many Malaysians.

The term Orang bunian is often translated as “elves” or “goblins”, but it would be more correct to speak of the “hidden” or “whistling” people. They are generally regarded as benevolent.

Most Malaysian nature guides are mindful of what they refer to as the rules of the jungle, such as not saying negative things. When they take hikers into the rainforest, they advise the visitors to be respectful of the Orang bunian and not be rowdy or pluck leaves from the trees, and to stay together.

This long weekend, most Malaysians are enjoying some holiday time for the Hari Raya Aidiladha celebrations, but, for the teams looking for Nóra, today is set to be another tense, arduous day.

Since she disappeared, Nóra has been in the thoughts and prayers of people around the world and today – a day when Muslims are saying special prayers to mark Aidiladha – will be no exception.

On Friday, about three hundred people offered special prayers for Nóra at the Kariah Pantai Mosque in Seremban.

The mufti of Negeri Sembilan, Mohd Yusof Ahmad, specifically advised those involved in the search operation to offer prayers for the missing girl. He expressed sympathy for Nóra’s family and said he hoped that their beloved child would be found safe.

Nicky Byrne from the Irish pop group Westlife, who performed in Malaysia on Thursday and Friday nights, answered an appeal on Twitter to publicise the search for Nóra and called on stage for everyone in Malaysia to extend a helping hand by providing the latest information about the girl’s disappearance.

On Thursday, Westlife tweeted about Nóra’s disappearance:

Nicky Byrne personally tweeted: “Hey all In Malaysia please help to find this young Irish girl missing since Sunday. Thank you Nicky.”

The popular Malasyian actress Fasha Sandha posted an appeal on Instagram. Using the hashtags #prayfornora and #noraannequoirin, Fasha, who has 4.4 million followers on Instagram, urged people in Seremban to please help and said that she prayed that Nóra would be found safe.

Nóra’s family has set up an email address on which people can share any information they consider might be helpful: findnoraq@gmail.com.

The Lucie Blackman Trust has provided a telephone hotline and an email address. People with information, who can remain anonymous, can call +448000988485 or email ops@lbtrust.org.

There is also a “FindNora” Twitter page.

There are also now official pages on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/FindNoraQ/) and Instagram (@findnoraq) to spread the word globally about the search.

A total of £82,804 has been raised in a GoFundMe appeal launched by Nóra’s aunt, Aisling Agnew, on behalf of Nóra’s family. There is a separate GoFundMe appeal, set up by Nóra’s uncle, Pacôme, to which people can donate in euro.

Agnew states in the appeal that the funds will be used at the family’s discretion as the search for Nóra continues to develop and as needs arise.

“If there are funds in excess of the family’s needs, they have expressed wishes to donate the reminder to charity, such as the Lucie Blackman Trust, in order to help families in similar situations to ourselves.”

Nóra with her mother Meabh.

Update 12/8/2019

Malaysian police have set up a hotline on the mobile number +60 111 2285058 to try and get more information from the public in the search for Nóra.

Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop  ha said there has been talk of a reward being offered for information about the schoolgirl’s whereabouts, but would give no further details.

He told reporters on Saturday that police were very worried about Nóra’s welfare. “We do not know how long she can survive,” he said.

Further update:

Nóra’s family has offered a reward of 50,000 Malaysian ringgit (about €10,600) for information leading to her return. The money has been donated by a business in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Nóra’s mother, Meabh, said: “Nóra is our first child. She has been vulnerable since the day she was born. She is so precious to us and our hearts are breaking. We are appealing to anyone who has information about Nora to help us find her.

In a statement that she read to the media, Meabh  continued:  “The police have been working extremely hard to bring Nóra home. In order to help their investigation, we have decided to offer a reward: 50,000 ringgit has been donated by an anonymous Belfast-based business for any information that directly helps us to find Nora.”

Update:

Police in Malaysia confirmed that a body was found on the 10th day of the search for Nóra Quoirin. Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop said: “I can confirm a body has been found in the Berembun mountains. It is not in an accessible place.”