Headlines entailing death are hard to digest, and the sensation is further emphasised when there is a lack of closure. Such was the case for London-born Nora Anne Quoirin, who passed away during a family vacation at forest near an eco-resort in Seremban, back in August 2019.
Nora was 15 years old at the time. She journeyed to Malaysia with her parents Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin, as well as two of her siblings. The family resided in a chalet at a resort which was reportedly located near the edge of a large rainforest.
Meabh, Nora’s mother, told media outlets that she had a mild recollection of strange events which occurred that fateful night.
She claimed that shortly after everyone had gone to bed, she vividly recalled hearing “muffled” sounds, possibly coming from two strangers from the inside of the family’s chalet.
She remarked, “It felt nearly extremely close, like there was some movement, perhaps items being pushed around. There seemed to be a conversation going on, although it was in very hushed whispers.”
Nora had vanished from her bed by the time the sun dawned, and their chalet’s window was wide open. Hundreds of Malaysian police personnel participated in a massive search before Nora’s unclothed body, barefoot and clad in only undergarments, was discovered in a “hilly area with a ravine” within the forest, about 1.2 miles (1.9km) from the resort.
At the time, Malaysian authorities concluded that Nora voluntarily departed the chalet during the night, and ruled out possibilities of foul play. Numerous police officers spent days searching the woods and grounds of the Dusun eco-resort in Seremban. It took 10 days to locate her, and the findings of the autopsy revealed that she had passed just two or three days prior to being found.
The results depicted that Nora had suffered intestinal damage, but that it was impossible to confirm nor rule out sexual assault due to the decomposition of her corpse.
Negeri Sembilan state police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop told media reporters that the ultimate cause of death was “upper-gastrointestinal bleeding due to duodenal ulcer, complicated with perforation. It could be due to a lack of food for a long period of time and due to prolonged stress.”
However, more than two years after Nora’s passing, the Quoirin family and Malaysian authorities remained at odds on whether their daughter strayed or was abducted. The confusion was stirred by the fact that Nora was physically incapable of putting herself in such a situation.
According to Ms. Quoirin, her daughter suffered physical and cognitive difficulties that would have rendered it virtually impossible for her to even decide to leave the bedroom by herself in the dark, much less climb through the window and roam around the nearby forest unnoticed. Nora also struggled with coordination and balance. She weighed slightly more than 30 kilogrammes at the time of her passing, which was underweight for her age.
Within a few metres of her parents’ bedroom below, Nora and her younger sister Innes shared a double bed on a mezzanine floor that was reachable by a spiral staircase. The following morning, Innes had realised Nora was gone but presumed she had gone into her parents’ bedroom.
When Ms. Quoirin saw the window open, she claimed she felt “very agitated.”
She testified to the inquest, “The first idea that flashed through my mind was Nora has been abducted. The window was open, as I could see. I knew it wasn’t us. And I was aware that it was improbable for Nora to have noticed a window, far less climbed out of it, from a physical or mental standpoint.”
Sebastien Quoirin said during the inquest that his wife had told him she had shut the chalet window the night before their daughter went missing.
“We quickly saw that Nora’s shoes were there, and I found it hard to imagine that she could have travelled that far if she had left the chalet given the challenging terrain and the darkness of the night,” he said.
The parents also alleged that numerous individuals, including resort workers, had touched the window by the time Malaysian police finally took fingerprints from it three days after Nora vanished.
Ms. Quoirin also stated that she believed, in the instance that Nora had wandered off alone, she would have been terrified to death and eventually froze; and then, more than likely, just sat down and waited for help to arrive.
On the topic of the absence of evidence suggesting foul play, she noted that Nora was “highly submissive” and had someone tried to physically assault her, Nora would most probably allow it without fighting back.
Additionally, according to investigators, Nora’s body was discovered without any signs of trauma despite supposedly having walked through a forest environment for days.
“Naturally, she had scars on her body. But none of those marks would be conducive to a child travelling continually in the jungle while unclothed, barefoot. If she walked in uneven or crooked terrain, she would have regularly tripped or fallen. And it seems logical that the terrain would cause a lot of damage to your body. And in the context, relatively speaking, she didn’t. And that really shocks me,” said Ms. Quoirin.
She added that due to Nora’s physical limitations and balance issues, it would have been immensely difficult for her to continue moving through the dense forest for so long. Sebastien, Nora’s father, identified his daughter’s body and recalled that, despite being dirty, Nora’s feet were not notably damaged.
Later on, in his testimony to the inquest, Mr. Quoirin said that if his daughter had been kidnapped, it was feasible that her captors may have later released her out of fear.
According to Mr. Quoirin, “maybe the kidnappers realised that Nora truly would be a hindrance instead of an asset because of her handicap.”
“They probably did not foresee the enormous search and rescue effort underway and the global media coverage of this tragedy. Perhaps they reasoned that it would be safer for them to release Nora if they were in a panic.”
Nora’s mother had offered a reward worth RM50,000 donated by a Belfast-based company before the corpse of her daughter was discovered. The money was given in exchange for information that would assist authorities locate Nora.
To help with the investigation, police from the UK, France, and Ireland travelled to Malaysia. Although they each gave testimony, Nora’s two siblings’ statements are being kept confidential.
The Quoirin family subsequently filed a lawsuit against The Dusun resort’s owner for negligence, alleging that there was no security at the property and a broken latch on the window where Nora is thought to have vanished.
In mid-2021, the inquest’s conclusions were overturned by a Malaysian court, which ruled that the coroner erred in claiming that Nora’s death was due to a ‘misadventure’.
Instead, the high court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan delivered an unresolved decision, which leaves open the possibility of criminal participation and might give rise to additional probes into her possible abduction.
The resort was situated on a high hill, according to the court, making it very challenging for Nora to cross in the dark at night. He claimed that in order for her to exit the property, she would have needed to squeeze through openings in the resort’s gate or climb over fencing.
Haanim Bamadhaj, the resort’s owner, has acknowledged that the family’s chalet’s window was damaged and that it might have been unlocked from the outside. She also admitted that some of the resort’s perimeter fencing was damaged.
We wish justice upon Nora’s family, and hope that they may soon obtain the closure they deserve.