A Malaysian court overturned the findings of an investigation into the death of French-Irish teenager Nora Anne Quoirin, stating that the coroner was wrong in concluding that she died as a result of an accident.
Instead, High Court Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan issued an open verdict, which does not rule out the possibility of criminal involvement and could pave the way for further investigations into her disappearance.
Nora, 15, from Balham, south London, disappeared during a family holiday at a resort in Seremban, south Kuala Lumpur, in August 2019. Her body was found 10 days later, without clothes, next to a stream in dense jungle about 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from the resort.
Nora’s parents Sebastien and Meabh Quoirin, who believe she was abducted, were waiting for an open verdict during the investigation. Instead, he concluded in January that Nora likely died as a result of a misfortune after walking alone in the jungle at night.
However, Adnan agreed with Nora’s family that the teenager, who had a developmental condition, was unlikely to have gone away on her own. “The balance and coordination problems he faced, coupled with the fact that he tired easily, establish in my opinion that it would have been unlikely that death was the result of misadventure,” he said.
“She was a shy and withdrawn girl, not very curious and without adventures and who was very emotionally attached to her parents. She was also uncomfortable with the unknown, ”Azizul said, rejecting the earlier verdict.
In response to the court’s findings, Meabh Quoirin said the family was relieved by the outcome. “It is a very important day for us, we are very excited,” he told the BBC.
“But we are very satisfied with the result. Nora would always be worth fighting for and this is the verdict we wanted. It really was the only reasonable verdict available to us that the evidence we had could only lead us down this path as a credible one as far as we are concerned.
Nora attended a school for young people with learning difficulties, limited verbal communication, and balance and mobility difficulties. It could walk on flat ground but could not cope with uneven terrain.
The judge said the complex was located on a steep hill that Nora would have found very difficult to cross at night in the dark. To get out of the complex, he would have had to climb over a broken fence or crawl through gaps in the complex’s gate, he said.
Their journey would have become increasingly challenging outside of the resort. “To get to the place where she was finally found, she had to have crossed rocky streams and up and down steep slopes,” Azizul said. The terrain was difficult for the healthy, well-equipped adults who had visited the site during the trial, he added. Nora was barefoot when she disappeared.
The judge said it was also unlikely that Nora alone would have been able to evade detection during the six days she is believed to have survived in the jungle.
During last year’s investigation, the police maintained that their investigation found no signs of criminal activity and that there were no indications that Nora had been abducted. However, Nora’s parents have criticized the police for what they saw as a slow and ineffective response.
It wasn’t until days after Nora’s disappearance that police took fingerprints from the chalet, according to Nora’s parents.
The owner of the complex where the family stayed, Haanim Bamadhaj, has previously admitted that the window in his chalet was broken and that it could have been opened from the outside. Some of the fences around the complex were also broken.
Nora’s parents said in last year’s investigation that they heard muffled sounds at the vacation chalet the night their daughter disappeared.
An autopsy concluded that Nora was likely to have died of hunger and stress. A British pathologist who performed a second autopsy said he agreed with those findings. He said he could not completely rule out sexual assault due to the severe body decomposition.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism