The family of Nora Anne Quoirin, the London schoolgirl found dead during a holiday in a Malaysian jungle, have said they are “utterly disappointed” after a coroner ruled that no third party was involved and that she probably died as a result of misadventure.
The coroner, Maimoonah Aid, ruled out homicide, natural death and suicide on Monday and said the French-Irish 15-year-old probably 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,” Maimoonah told a court in the city of Seremban. “It is more probable than not that she died by misadventure.”
Maimoonah said there were no suspicious circumstances prior to the disappearance, no ransom request and no signs of intrusion into the family’s chalet. The teenager probably left the family accommodation “on her own and subsequently got lost in the abandoned palm oil plantation”, she said.
“For me to speculate and presume of her actions and involvement of a third party without any proof, that would be a breach of my duty so the inquiry is hereby closed.”
Nora’s parents, who had hoped for an open verdict and were listening from their home in London, said in a statement: “Once again we see that justice struggles to support the most vulnerable in society, only engaging with special needs at a surface level, and not at the level that truly reflects children like Nora.
“We believe we have fought not just for Nora but in honour of all the special needs children in this world who deserve our most committed support and the most careful application of justice.
“This is Nora’s unique legacy and we will never let it go.”
Nora, from Balham, south London, went missing overnight while on a family holiday at a resort in Seremban, south of Kuala Lumpur in August 2019. She had been sleeping in a bedroom with her brother and sister, but when the family woke one morning they found that she had disappeared. She was barefoot and wearing just underwear. A large window in the family’s chalet was found open.
After a 10-day search, Nora’s body was discovered unclothed beside a stream in dense jungle, 1.2 miles (1.9km) away from the resort where she had been staying. An autopsy concluded that Nora was likely to have died of starvation and stress after spending seven days in the jungle.
Police said their investigations found no signs that Nora had been abducted, and the Malaysian authorities later classified the case as “requiring no further action”. However, Nora’s parents pushed for an inquest, stating that many questions regarding her disappearance remained unanswered.
During the inquest, which began in August, a senior police official, Mohamad Mat Yusop, said he saw nothing suspicious when inspecting the chalet where Nora had been staying and he believed she had climbed out of the window.
Nora’s parents, who spoke through a video link, questioned these conclusions and criticised aspects of the police response. Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin repeatedly stressed it would have been completely out of character for her to have wandered off alone.
Her parents spoke of how Nora had a neurological condition that meant she would have struggled to venture so far. Nora, who was 15, was born with holoprosencephaly, which affected both her balance and mobility, and her family described her as vulnerable.
During the search operation, a recording of Meabh calling her daughter’s nickname – Nora Bean – was played out across the jungle, because her parents feared she would not answer a stranger’s call.
Her mother told the coroner’s court that she doubted Nora, who weighed 30kg (4st 10lb), would have been strong enough to open and climb out of the chalet window. Nora had never wandered out of their front door at home, the court heard.
At the time of Nora’s disappearance her parents had warned repeatedly that they believed she had been abducted, but police continued to treat the incident as a missing person case.
Meabh said she feared crucial evidence had been lost because police were too slow to investigate the possibility of a criminal element, and described problems with the response. The officer sent to take a statement from her struggled to communicate in English, she said, while some police officials were “quite rude and arrogant”.
Both parents said they had heard muffled whispering inside the family’s chalet on the night her daughter disappeared. They had been half-asleep at the time and so did not act.
The resort’s owner, Haanim Bamadhaj, told the inquest that a window in the chalet was broken and could be opened from the outside.
Almost 50 witnesses gave evidence to the inquest, including a British pathologist who conducted a second autopsy on Nora’s body. He did not challenge the conclusions of the autopsy completed in Malaysia, but said it was impossible to completely rule out the possibility of a sexual assault due to the condition of her remains.
During her ruling, Maimoonah focused on the fact the family were probably exhausted after a long journey from Britain.
“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 teenager, 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.