Malaysia

Nóra Quoirin’s parents suspect ‘criminal element’ in her death and ask for inquest

Nóra Quoirin with her mother Meabh.

Nóra Quoirin’s parents have said that they believe there was a criminal element in the disappearance and death of their daughter and have called on the Malaysian authorities to open an inquest.

An inquest would give the Malaysian authorities the jurisdiction they need to examine the case from every angle, including a potentially criminal one, Sebastien Quoirin said.

The Franco-Irish teenager went missing in August when on holiday with her family at the Dusun rainforest resort near Seremban, about 60 kilometres from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Her body was found on August 13 by a group of hikers who had volunteered their help. It was the 10th day of a massive search for the 15-year-old schoolgirl.

After a ten-hour postmortem on Nóra’s body, which was found about two kilometres from the Dusun resort, Malaysian police said there was no evidence of foul play and the cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to a duodenal ulcer complicated with perforation. The final results of the postmortem, including the toxicology reports, have not yet been released.

In an exclusive interview with Jackie Fox for the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Sebastien Quoirin said that it was “a basic human right and democratic duty” to seek truth and justice for his daughter.

He said there was “one chance in a billion” that Nóra got lost by herself.

Nóra wouldn’t even go out of the door of her home alone, Sebastien Quoirin added. To think that she might get up in the middle of the night and go out of the bungalow into the jungle, naked and barefoot, in total darkness – bearing in mind that the terrain was extremely  steep and dangerous – made absolutely no sense, he said. “We think it is absurd to think about this possibility.”

This week’s interview with RTÉ was the first time that Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin had spoken publicly about Nóra’s death.

Meabh Quoirin said it was impossible to imagine that Nóra could have got any distance at all. She never even walked as far as her neighbour’s front door by herself.

The Quoirins believe that crucial time and evidence was lost at the start of the search for Nóra because a criminal angle was not investigated quickly enough and the police continued to treat her disappearance as a missing person case.

Meabh Quoirin said: “For us something very complex happened. We’ve insisted from the beginning that we believe there was a criminal element to what happened.

“And crucially we were struggling because it was difficult to get the resources in place fast enough to explore a criminal angle.”

The Quoirins confirmed that a second postmortem was carried out on Nóra’s body in London. They are awaiting the results of that postmortem, and the final results of the one carried out in Malaysia.

Meabh Quoirin said: “While a postmortem, when it eventually comes through, may give us answers, and has already given us some basic answers around what caused Nóra’s death, it doesn’t explain any of how she could possibly have got to where she was found.”

Nóra’s mother said it had been very difficult to get across to the authorities in Malaysia that Nóra had special needs. “One of the things that was evident from the beginning was that the Malaysian authorities didn’t understand and didn’t want to engage with the fact that Nóra had special needs and this was hugely frustrating but also incredibly stressful for us.”

It took five days before the bungalow where the Quoirins were staying was thoroughly forensically examined, Meabh Quoirin said. The Malaysians did say that they were exploring criminal angles, she said. “I believe that they did indeed do that to a certain extent, but, for us, more could have been done; should have been done. We hope that the Malaysians will continue to help us fight for truth and justice.”

The bottom line, Sebastien Quoirin said, is “we know the cause of her death, but we don’t know how she got to where she was found”.

Many questions remained unanswered, Nóra’s father said.

“She was found about two kilometres away by a little stream within an abandoned palm tree plantation and it is hard to comprehend how she got there in the first place or how she was found there in the first place.”

Nóra’s parents believe it is going to be difficult to get the whole truth about what happened to their daughter, but, they said. “it’s important to try”.

Sebastien Quoirin confirmed during the interview with RTÉ that Nóra and her siblings were sleeping in the mezzanine in the Dusun resort bungalow and he and Meabh were sleeping downstairs. When he went to check on the children in the morning on August 4 he discovered that Nóra was missing. The family had only arrived at the Dusun resort the previous afternoon.

The family had intended to spend three days at the Dusun resort, Sebastien Quoirin said. They had then planned to travel around Malayasia and visit Meabh’s brother in Singapore.

After the postmortem on Nóra’s body, police said on August 15 that there was no evidence to indicate that she was abducted or raped. The bleeding in Nora’s intestine was most likely caused by prolonged hunger and stress, Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusof said. He added that the pathologists dated Nóra’s death as two or three days before her body was found, “not more than four days”.

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

During the search for Nóra, her parents explained in a statement that their daughter was able to read like a young child, but couldn’t write more than a few words. She had a good memory, but couldn’t understand anything conceptual. She was unable to do maths. Her balance was limited and she struggled with co-ordination. She had previously been to Asia, and many European countries, and had never wandered off or got lost.

My day-to-day reporting about Nóra’s disappearance and death can be found on the Irish Times website.

August 2019: Meabh Quoirin is comforted by her huband Sebastien as she thanks search-and-rescue teams on the eighth day of the search for her daughter. Photo credit: The Royal Malaysia Police/AP.

Update 19/12/2019

The Quoirin family’s lawyer in Malaysia, Sankara Nair, told Jackie Fox yesterday (Wednesday) that the Malaysian  authorities had not replied to his request for information since Nóra’s body was repatriated back to the UK four months ago.

Nair told Fox that he had written three letters to the Malaysian police in recent months to request information about the status of the investigation into Nóra’s death, but had  received no response.

He also said that he had been told by the Malaysian authorities that it would take another two months for the full postmortem report to be released.