SEREMBAN, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian coroner began an inquest Monday into the death of a French-Irish teen, a year after her body was found near a nature resort where she vanished while on holiday.
Nora Anne Quoirin’s disappearance from her family’s cottage at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on Aug. 4 last year, a day after her family arrived for their holiday, sparked a massive search. Her naked body was discovered on Aug. 13 beside a stream in a palm oil estate about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the resort, police say.
Coroner Maimoonah Aid said the inquest is aimed at determining when 15-year-old Nora died, the cause of her death, how she came to her death, and if anyone was criminally involved.
Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop, the first witness, said the investigation showed no criminal element. He said there was no indication Nora was abducted and no ransom demand.
Police believe Nora climbed out of a window on her own, and the autopsy showed she succumbed to intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress, he said.
Her Irish mother and French father, Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin, say Nora was kidnapped because she had mental and physical disabilities and couldn’t have wandered off on her own.
Resort owner Haanim Bamadhaj, who testified via video conference, said Nora’s parents had told her the teen only had on her underwear when she went missing and that she would hide when she was frightened.
Recalling the night, Haanim, whose house faces the Quorin’s cottage, said it was peaceful and that her dog, who would bark if there were outsiders, was also quiet.
She acknowledged that a window of the cottage that was found ajar the morning Nora disappeared was faulty and could be opened from the outside. But she said there have never been any criminal break-ins in her property since it opened for business 11 years ago.
A recording of the girl’s mother calling “Nora darling, Nora, Nora, mummy here” that was used during the search was played to the court.
The coroner earlier this month visited the resort and the place where the body was found. The inquest, which is set to run until Sept. 4, is to involve 64 witnesses.
The Quoirin family lawyer, S. Sakhty Vell, said Nora’s parents couldn’t attend the inquest due to the coronavirus pandemic but will testify via video conference. A British doctor who conducted a second autopsy on Nora’s body will also testify remotely, he said.
The Quoirin family has sued the resort owner for alleged negligence. They said in their lawsuit that there was no security at the resort and that a cottage window was found ajar with a broken latch on the morning Nora disappeared.
Nora had poor motor skills and needed help to walk and her mental age was about 5 or 6 years old, her parents said in the lawsuit.
Gurdial Singh Nijar, the lawyer representing the resort, told reporters after the first day of the inquest that the incident was unfortunate but “there was no culpability” on the part of the resort owner.
Nora’s parents have welcomed Malaysia’s decision to hold the inquest after police classified the case as “no further action.” They said the inquest will be “crucial in determining the fullest possible picture of what happened to Nora and how her case was dealt with.”