Malaysian coroner says French-Irish teen’s death likely a ‘misadventure’

A Malaysian coroner ruled on January 4, 2021, that French-Irish teen Nora Quoirin's death was a "misadventure" that didn't involve other people.
A Malaysian coroner ruled on January 4, 2021, that French-Irish teen Nora Quoirin's death was a "misadventure" that didn't involve other people. © Mohd Rasfan, AFP (file photo)

A Malaysian coroner ruled Monday that the death of a French-Irish teen whose body was found near a Malaysian jungle resort where she vanished while on vacation was most likely a “misadventure” that didn't involve other people.

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Coroner Maimoonah Aid ruled out homicide, natural death and suicide and said Nora Anne Quoirin likely got lost after leaving her family's cottage on her own.

"After hearing all the relevant evidence, I rule that there was no one involved in the death of Nora Anne," she told a court in the Malaysian city of Seremban.

"It is more probable than not that she died by misadventure."

The 15-year-old disappeared at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on August 4, 2019, a day after the family arrived for a vacation. After a massive search, her naked body was found on August 13 beside a stream on a palm oil estate about 2.5 kilometers from the resort.

Police believed she climbed out of the cottage window on her own, with no evidence of any foul play. But the teen's parents said she was likely kidnapped because she had mental and physical disabilities and wouldn’t have wandered off on her own. They told the inquest that a third party could have dumped her body in the area following the search operation for her.

Watching the court proceedings online from London, Quoirin’s mother bowed her head as the verdict was delivered, with the coroner also saying there was no sign the 15-year-old was murdered or sexually assaulted.

Family were 'jet-lagged and tired'

The coroner took two hours to deliver the verdict, going through the testimony from over 40 witnesses that was presented during the inquest from late August to December.

Nora Anne was clad only in underwear when she went missing, but her body was found naked. The coroner noted the family's contention that this lent credence to the possibility of sexual assault but said an extensive autopsy could find no such proof, nor evidence of struggle marks or smothering.

Maimoonah instead focused on the fact the family were likely exhausted after a long journey from Britain and activities at the Dusun resort on the day of their arrival in August, 2019.

"The family (were) all jet-lagged and tired," she said. "Nora Anne had also shown her level of tiredness increase."

This made it likely that the teen, in a "strange and new place", had wandered out of the family's accommodation of her own accord on their first night at the resort, she said.

Maimoonah also noted the teenager's mother said that she was capable of climbing stairs on her own, suggesting she could have got out of their chalet by herself.

Slow police response allegations

During the inquest, the teen's parents said they heard mysterious "muffled noises" coming from the accommodation the night of the schoolgirl's disappearance, fuelling their belief she was snatched.

In their testimony, police had reiterated their view the teen had wandered off alone and defended their approach, insisting a thorough search was conducted.

But her parents painted a different picture, strongly criticising authorities for their response to their daughter's disappearance.

The five-hectare (12-acre) resort is next to a patch of thick jungle and in the foothills of a mountain range.

The teen had a condition known as holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to develop normally. She had limited verbal communication and could only write a few words.

She attended a school for young people with learning difficulties.

UK pathologist says death due to starvation, stress

A British pathologist who performed a second autopsy on Nora Anne's body in the United Kingdom testified that he agreed with the Malaysian findings that she died of intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress. However, he said he couldn’t fully rule out sexual assault due to severe body decomposition.

Her mother had testified that a cottage window with a broken latch was found opened the morning Nora Anne disappeared but the coroner said she could have pushed it open by accident.

Rescuers may have overlooked Nora's body due to the thick jungle terrain, Maimoonah added. The autopsy estimated that she died between two and four days before her body was discovered.

A total of 49 witnesses have testified over 24 days since August last year via video-conferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

France also opened a criminal probe into the death in August 2019. French prosecutors regularly launch investigations on cases involving French citizens abroad. Nora's mother is from Belfast while her father is French.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

 

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