Nora Quoirin’s parents did not have to say that their hearts were broken over her terrible death in an unforgiving Malaysian jungle. For days the horror of losing their eldest child in mystifying circumstances in a country far from home had been etched on their agonised faces.
The discovery of the 15-year-old’s body on Tuesday brought a final, painful end to the question of what had happened to the young girl nine days after she disappeared from her Franco-Irish family’s holiday cottage in the Dusun eco-resort, some 40 miles from Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Nora was found by volunteer searchers, without clothes and lying in a sleeping pose, in a stream in a ravine near a remote jungle waterfall 1.5 miles from the resort.
A local autopsy, observed by foreign experts, concluded that the teen died after “bleeding in her intestines due to not eating” as well as “extreme stress,” ruling out the suspicion of foul play.
But while her Irish mother Meabh, 45, and French father Sebastien 47, have been spared the pain of never knowing their daughter’s fate, they remain tormented by unanswered questions about the facts surrounding her death.
The brutal reality is that the true story of young Nora’s disappearance may never be known.
“But our beautiful innocent girl died in extremely complex circumstances and we are hoping that soon we will have more answers to our many questions. We are still struggling to understand the events of the last 10 days.”
Nora’s wider family have gone further, openly suggesting she was the victim of a crime.
“The findings that were announced in no way discredit a criminal act. She could have been kidnapped and fed at the beginning. There is insufficient evidence to jump to definitive conclusions,” her uncle Pacome Quoirin, a French graphic designer, told the Irish Times.
The tragedy began on the first day of the “holiday of a lifetime” for the Quoirin family of five, who on August 3 had made the exhausting 18- hour-trip from their London home to the tranquil surroundings of the Dusun hotel, an orchard resort on the edge of a tropical rainforest.
Early on their first morning, Sebastien Quoirin found Nora missing from her bedroom – a heart-stopping moment compounded by the unique vulnerability of his daughter.
The Quoirins’ eldest child was born with holoprosencephaly, a neurological disorder, which limited her speech and coordination.
She had undergone several operations in infancy to enable her to breathe and attended a school for children with special needs; her independence had always been limited. Mr Quoirin immediately called the police.
An open hall window on the ground floor of the duplex bungalow, Nora’s obvious exit point, became an immediate focus of the police investigation. It was reportedly broken and could have been opened from the inside or outside. The police lifted fingerprints although no identity was ever revealed.
But did Nora, disorientated by jetlag, step outside into darkness of her own volition, or was she forced or lured by someone else?
The Quoirins have openly expressed their gratitude to the 350 local volunteers and police officers who fanned out across the perilous terrain, in hot and humid conditions, to search for their child.
But the family’s frustration has still been evident, not least because of their deep conviction that Nora’s physical challenges would have made it impossible for her to wander barefoot through deep, undulating forest, up an at times steep path to the ravine where she was found.
Mr Quoirin believes someone put Nora’s body in the stream “to get rid of her,” adding: “She wasn’t there yet [during previous searches]. Someone put her there.”
The disturbing theory was also raised by the family’s spokesman, Matthew Searle, of the Lucie Blackman Trust, who confirmed that the family still had a “large amount of questions.”
He said: “One of those questions is, has the body been there all the time or is there a criminal involvement? Was the body dumped there afterwards?”
Charles Morel, the family’s French lawyer, added to the scepticism:
“We want to make sure not only that this [criminal] hypothesis is not ruled out, but that [the investigators] work on it…. taking into account the importance of tourism in Malaysia and its image, the authorities may tend to prioritise the thesis that she left [voluntarily] over the criminal hypothesis,” he told the Telegraph.
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Other open questions include the mystery of Nora’s clothes – why was the young girl naked given that she was wearing underwear on the night she went missing? Have the police found her clothes in the jungle?
And for a teen so close to her family, why did she not respond to the heartbreaking recorded pleas of her mother that were broadcast over the jungle area, pleading: “’Nora darling, Nora I love you, Mum is here.”
Still, throughout their ordeal the Quoirins have remained dignified in their gratitude to the Malaysian search team and eloquent in their grief.
“She is the truest, most precious girl and we love her infinitely. The cruelty of her being taken away is unbearable. Our hearts are broken,” they said of their daughter.
On Friday, after receiving a visit from Wan Azizah Ismail, the country’s deputy prime minister, they repeated their thanks to the Malaysian authorities for their ongoing support, and revealed that they would now be taking their child home.
“We will be bringing Nóra home where she will finally be laid to rest, close to her loving families in France and Ireland,” they said.