Malaysian lawyer suspects Nóra Quoirin was abducted, and says inquest should be held

Nóra Quoirin with her mother Meabh.

The lawyer in Malaysia who is representing the family of Nóra Quoirin says he suspects that the Franco-Irish teenager was abducted.

Nóra 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.

Sankara Nair says there are still more questions than answers about Nóra’s disappearance and death and there is a strong case for Malaysia’s attorney-general to order an inquest.

The lawyer wrote again to the Malaysian police on Thursday asking them to update him about the status of the investigation. He told them that, if he does not receive a response, he will assume that the police have closed the case.

Nair says the Malaysian police have not replied to any of his requests for information since Nóra’s body was repatriated to the UK four months ago.

He has now written four letters to the police requesting information about the investigation into Nóra’s disappearance and death. “Why can’t they just reply and, if they are still investigating, just say that,” Nair said. “I want a response. Are they, or are they not, closing the case?”

Nair says that, if there is no response from the police this time, he will write to Malaysia’s attorney-general, Tommy Thomas, laying out the questions and concerns that remain and asking him to order an inquest.

“The French, British, and Irish governments should also write and express their concern and ask for an inquest to be held,” Nair said.

There are serious concerns, Nair says. “As soon as Nóra’s body was taken away from Malaysia the family raised about two hundred unanswered questions that they sent to me and to the police.”

In an exclusive interview with Jackie Fox for the Irish broadcaster RTÉ, Nóra Quoirin’s parents said earlier this week that they believed there was a criminal element in the disappearance and death of their daughter and 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.

Nair says it seems totally incredible that Nóra would go out of the bungalow at the Dusun resort on her own when it was still dark.

Sebastien Quoirin told RTE that 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, he said. 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.”

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.

Nair points out that media reports about the lounge window in the bungalow were incorrect and it was not true that it could only be opened from inside. The latch on the window was broken, he said, so somebody could have pulled it open from outside and got in.

The lounge window was found to be ajar when Nóra went missing.

Photo issued by the Negeri Sembilan police.

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.

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 that postmortem, including the toxicology reports, have not yet been released.

Hospital authorities told Nair on Thursday that they would provide the final postmortem soon and he thinks that may now mean weeks rather than months.

The Quoirins are also still awaiting the results of a second postmortem, carried out in London.

Nair points out that, even when the full report is released, the postmortem will only be able to give a reasonable assessment of the cause of Nóra’s death. If she had been abducted, the postmortem would not show that.

“If the family suspects foul play then it is the duty of the attorney-general to call for an inquest,” he said.

It is only the attorney-general, Nair says, who is empowered to order an inquest.

If there is an inquest, he adds, all parties who have been investigated can be questioned again.

Meabh Quoirin told Jackie Fox: “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.”

She 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.”

Sebastien Quoirin said that it was “a basic human right and democratic duty” to seek truth and justice for his daughter.

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.

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

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.