Monday 16 September 2019

'Not possible to exclude criminal involvement yet' - Nóra Quoirin's family seeking 'the truth'

Nóra with her mother Meabh. Photo: AFP PHOTO / QUOIRIN FAMILY
Nóra with her mother Meabh. Photo: AFP PHOTO / QUOIRIN FAMILY
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

Nóra Quoirin's family are still seeking "the truth" of what happened to their daughter - and believe that tests to be returned in the coming days will prove vital.

Nóra's family still question whether the 15-year-old schoolgirl, who had holoprosencephaly, a rare brain condition, had the capacity to wander off into the Malaysian jungle.

The Quoirins yesterday said they needed "more answers to our many questions" over the death of their daughter.

Malaysian police this week said that the teenager, whose body was found on Tuesday, died of starvation and stress.

But her parents Meabh (45) and Sebastien Quoirin (47) are relying on the DNA and toxicology tests to reveal more about the tragic end to their daughter's life.

Calls are also being made for a review of how the search operation was conducted with An Garda Síochána, the British police and French police prompted to get involved.

Family members at hospital. Photo: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images
Family members at hospital. Photo: MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

The Quoirins' solicitor Charles Morel, who is in Paris, told the Irish Independent: "There's no possible definitive conclusion with the first [post-mortem] result.

"We're waiting for toxicological analysis and pathological tests.

"The family wants to know the truth and it's not possible to exclude the criminal [involvement] yet.

"The police have not excluded the criminal and now we're waiting for those final tests and also for an additional investigation.

Jim Gamble. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Jim Gamble. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

"We expect the results of the test within days."

Mr Morel said he would not be commenting on the investigation to date but the family are expected to make a statement in the coming days.

"There's an inquiry in France," he said. "And I understand there could be an inquiry in Ireland and maybe also in Great Britain.

"I'm waiting on information from the other side of the channel, to see if there's going to be an inquiry (in Ireland and the UK). But there is a real co-ordination between investigators."

Tragedy: Rescuers search for Nóra. Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng
Tragedy: Rescuers search for Nóra. Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

Further questions have also been raised by former police officer Jim Gamble, who led the initial British investigation into the Madeleine McCann disappearance. He queried how the investigation was carried out, and whether Nóra's parents had been listened to enough by the authorities.

Their "minds remain open that Nóra could have been taken or led away", he said.

A statement from the family yesterday said: "Today the deputy prime minister of Malaysia and the minister for the state paid their respects to our family.

"We had the opportunity to thank them for everything that the Malaysian government, police, search and rescue teams, local people and volunteers have done to help us.

"Tragically, as we know, this wasn't enough to save Nóra. The initial post-mortem results have given some information that helps us to understand Nóra's cause of death.

"But our beautiful, innocent girl died in extremely complex circumstances and we are hoping that soon we will have more answers to our many questions. We are still struggling to understand the events of the last 10 days.

"We would like to thank the Malaysian authorities for their ongoing support and co-operation with international governments and police as the criminal and missing persons investigations continue.

"We will be bringing Nóra home where she will finally be laid to rest, close to her loving families in France and Ireland."

The Lucie Blackman Trust, which issued the statement for the family, also stated Nóra would be laid to rest "privately".

Representatives from An Garda Síochána, the National Crime Agency in the UK, Interpol and the London Metropolitan Police all joined the search for Nóra.

The teenager was understood to have gone to sleep upstairs in a bedroom of the Dusun resort in Malaysia on August 3.

Her father discovered she'd vanished at around 8am the morning after the family had arrived in the resort. Her body was found on Tuesday this week, 10 days after she went missing, even though volunteers had already searched the area where she was located.

The initial post-mortem found the child had likely been dead for two to three days before she was found and she'd suffered intestinal bleeding, possibly due to lack of food and stress.

Her body was found close to a stream near the Lata Berembun waterfall in a mountainous area in the rainforest, just 1.6km from the resort.

Mr Gamble, who was the UK's leading child protection officer, told the Irish Independent: "When the incident began I've no doubt the police adopted the position of the most likely hypothesis being a child was suffering from jet lag, woke up early, went to the toilet and walked out of the villa and got lost in unfamiliar terrain.

"That hypothesis makes absolute sense but you want the police on minute one, hour one, day one, to not only follow that hypothesis - as it's about engaging an immediate search for the child - you want them to think about criminal scenarios from minute one and to secure the scene and any evidence."

Mr Gamble, who is CEO of Ineqe safeguarding group, added: "The family, from day one, believe Nóra wasn't capable of exiting the villa, let alone of travelling any distance.

"The Malaysian police and others need to listen to the family, as they cared for a very special child with particular needs, who they loved and nurtured for many years.

"The parents need to be at the forefront of the investigation, as they knew their daughter so well, they were so close to her, more than if Nóra hadn't had special needs.

"So if the parents' view is listened to, which it needs to be listened to, it's actually hard to believe Nóra could have gone off by herself and travelled any distance.

"The family's mind is clearly open to the potential that someone could have taken or led Nóra away."

Mr Gamble said if a child died in Ireland or the UK in such a way, there would be an immediate review carried out. "Not to apportion blame but to establish could anything have been done better."

He added: "That needs to happen, as Nóra won't be the last child to go missing on a holiday resort and there are lessons for hotels and resorts and for the police at a local and national and international level.

"We need to be reassured that at no time has bureaucracy inhibited the speedy delivery of any service and if everything was done and was it all done right," he added.

A Garda spokesman said the force would not comment on statements from third parties.

The Garda Liaison Officer deployed to Malaysia, Sergeant Mick Moran, was expected to return from the Asian country yesterday.

The experienced officer, who has worked with Interpol, was chosen for his "specialised" attributes which include being a French speaker.

The Garda spokesman added: "The Garda Liaison Officer's function was as liaison with the Malaysian Police, UK and French authorities to assist in the search for Nóra Quoirin.

"An Garda Síochána has no statutory authority to perform investigations outside of this jurisdiction. The Garda Liaison Officer has now completed their duty."

Irish Independent

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