Thursday 22 August 2019

Nora Quoirin's parents identify her body after it is found in Malaysia

Nora and mum Meabh. Photo: PA
Nora and mum Meabh. Photo: PA
Nora Quoirin went missing in Malaysia (Family handout/PA)

Catherine Wylie, Aine Fox and Eimear McGovern

Nora Quoirin's parents have identified her body after it was found near a waterfall in the Malaysian jungle, Malaysian police have confirmed.

The 15-year-old's body was identified on Tuesday, hours after it was discovered following a large-scale search operation.

The Irish teenager, who has special needs, disappeared from the jungle resort of Dusun on Sunday August 4, where she had been on holiday with her family.

The Lucie Blackman Trust, which is handling media for the Quoirin family, confirmed "with great sadness that the body found today is that of missing teenager Nora Quoirin. Local police have confirmed identification."

Earlier national deputy police chief Mazlan Mansor told reporters at a press conference the body had been found beside a small stream about 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) from the resort, by volunteers who were helping the search team.

He said the remains had been winched by helicopter to a hospital mortuary, where her family were due to identify her.

He added that the body "was not in any clothings" and said while it remained a missing persons case police were looking into all possibilities including the "angle of criminal investigation".

"The area is quite hilly and is kilometers away from the resort," said Malaysia's Deputy Inspector General of Police Mazn Mazlan.

Nora's mother made a heartfelt appeal on Monday to find her as a £10,000 reward - donated by an anonymous Belfast business - was offered for information leading to her safe return.

The teenager's parents, Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin, a French-Irish couple who have lived in London for 20 years, thanked those looking for her as fundraising pages set up by Nora's aunt and uncle collected more than £100,000 from well-wishers.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has expressed his “sincere condolences” to Nora’s parents, siblings and wider family at what he described as “this unimaginably difficult time”.

“They have experienced every family’s worst nightmare. I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who searched for Nora. May she rest in peace,” Mr Varadkar said.

President Michael D Higgins expressed his sympathy with Nora's family.

"Sabina and I offer our deepest condolences to Nóra’s parents, Meabh and Sebastien, to Nóra’s siblings and to her extended family," President Higgins said.

"On behalf of the people of Ireland, I would also like to express my gratitude for the assistance given by the Malaysian authorities in the search for Nóra, for the volunteers who answered the call to join the search and for all those throughout Malaysia, Ireland, Britain and France who offered what support they could.

"Our thoughts and prayers are now with Nóra’s family, at this most difficult time," he added.

Following news that a body had been discovered, Tanaiste Simon Coveney described it as a "harrowing" time.

He tweeted: "Irish + French embassies in Malaysia working together to provide every assistance to the Quoirin family. Irish embassy is in touch with Malaysian authorities on today's discovery of a body. At this harrowing time all of our thoughts + prayers are with the family."

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said: “News that Nora’s body has been found is heart-breaking confirmation of her family’s worst fears.

“It is a devastating tragedy for Nora’s family and friends and our thoughts are with her loved ones and all those who helped in the search operation over the past nine days.”

Volunteer hikers and even reportedly a shaman were among those taking part in the search for Nora, who was born with the brain defect holoprosencephaly.

The Quoirins had said Nora's condition meant she was not independent and had difficulty walking.

Appearing in front of the cameras on Monday, a visibly emotional Mrs Quoirin said: "Nora is our first child.

"She has been vulnerable since the day she was born.

"She is so precious to us and our hearts are breaking."

On Monday morning, a total of 348 personnel were deployed in the search operation, according to Malaysia's Malay Mail newspaper.

Previously, search crews looking for Nora played her mother's voice in the dense Malaysian forest near where she disappeared.

Mrs Quoirin could be heard saying "Nora, darling, Nora, I love you, Mum is here," on the recording.

Police had said the teenager, who was travelling on an Irish passport, was believed to have climbed out of her resort room window.

After Nora went missing, her family described how she was particularly vulnerable.

They said: "Nora is a very special person. She is fun, funny, and extremely loving. With her family, she is very affectionate - family is her whole world.

"She is not like other teenagers. She is not independent and does not go anywhere alone."

The National Crime Agency (NCA), the Metropolitan Police and Irish police were supporting the Malaysian police with the case.

The Lucie Blackman Trust provides support to families with a loved one in crisis abroad.

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