Malaysian coroner rules Nora Quoirin's death was 'misadventure'

Nicola Smith
·3 min read
Nora Quoirin, 15, died in a Malaysian jungle - Family Handout/AFP
Nora Quoirin, 15, died in a Malaysian jungle - Family Handout/AFP

The family of a French-Irish teenager who died last year in a Malaysian jungle said they were “utterly disappointed” after a coroner ruled on Monday that her death was most likely a “misadventure” and there was no criminal involvement.

Coroner Maimoonah Aid told a Malaysian court that “there was no one involved” in Nora Quoirin’s death at a resort some 40 miles south of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in August 2019, despite her family’s claims that she must have been abducted.

The Quoirins dismissed the official conclusion as “incomplete” and said it did not take full account of her personality and learning difficulties.

In a statement, they said: “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.”

The 15-year-old, who lived in London, went missing in dense rainforest shortly after she and her family arrived at the Dusun resort near the foothills of a mountain range.  

Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin maintained that their daughter had been kidnapped - AFP
Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin maintained that their daughter had been kidnapped - AFP

The local police insisted there was no foul play when her unclothed body was found ten days later, after a search involving hundreds of people, helicopters and sniffer dogs. An autopsy found Nora likely starved and died of internal bleeding.

But the parents of the teenager, who was born with holoprosencephaly, a disorder which affects brain development and causes learning disabilities and balance problems, maintained that she would never have climbed out of the window of their holiday chalet in the middle of the night and wandered off.

After the Malaysian authorities classified the case as "requiring no further action,” Nora’s family pushed for a public inquest, which took place from August to December, with testimonies from more than 40 witnesses streamed online because of pandemic restrictions.

The inquest had to be streamed online because of the coronavirus pandemic - HOGP/AFP
The inquest had to be streamed online because of the coronavirus pandemic - HOGP/AFP

The police stuck to their line that there was no evidence of criminal activity. Mohamad Mat Yusop, a senior police official closely involved in the investigation testified that “there was no indication the victim was kidnapped” and defended his force’s thorough search for her.

But Nora’s parents accused the authorities of being slow to respond and of not taking their concerns about a possible criminal element seriously enough. They argued that their daughter would have been unable to push open the window, which had a broken latch, and climb out herself.

"I have a number of very precise reasons to believe that my daughter was kidnapped. How or why, I'm not qualified to say," Meabh Quoirin, her mother, told the coroner.

Her father, Sebastien, said that he had heard “muffled noises” coming from the chalet on the night of Nora’s disappearance, adding to the family’s fears of foul play.

The teenager’s body was eventually found by local rescue workers in a ravine in a patch of thick jungle near the resort.

Nathaniel Cary, a British forensic pathologist, agreed that Nora had died from intestinal bleeding due to stress and starvation but said that while there was no positive evidence of sexual assault that he could not fully exclude the possibility due to the severe body decomposition.

On Monday, Coroner Maimoonah Aid ruled as there was no sign the teen had been murdered or sexually assaulted, that she died by "misadventure".

The teen likely left the family accommodation "on her own and subsequently got lost in the abandoned palm oil plantation," she said.