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Lucie Blackman Trust/Family photo
Nóra Quoirin inquest

Malaysian court overturns Nóra Quoirin inquest verdict

Nóra’s family have campaigned for a change in the original verdict.

LAST UPDATE | 16 Jun 2021

A MALAYSIAN COURT has overturned an inquest verdict of “misadventure” in the death of a French-Irish teen Nóra Quoirin.

The initial verdict indicated the death was accidental, but the new ruling suggests there are still questions to be answered in the case and leaves open the possibility of criminal involvement.

The new judgement, delivered this morning, has replaced it with an “open” ruling in a victory for her family.

The body of Nóra Quoirin, a 15-year-old with learning difficulties, was discovered after a huge search operation through the rainforest following her disappearance from a resort outside Kuala Lumpur in 2019.

In January, a coroner handed down the misadventure ruling and said no one else was involved.

But her London-based parents, who have dismissed authorities’ claims their daughter wandered into the jungle alone at night and believe she was abducted, said they were “utterly disappointed”.

They lodged a challenge, seeking to have the ruling revised to an open verdict.

Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan ruled in their favour today, telling the Seremban High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, that “in the interests of justice” the misadventure verdict should be overturned and substituted with an open ruling.

“There was no credible evidence to support any other verdict,” he added.

malaysia-teen-death In this image from video released by Malaysian Judiciary, High Court Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan, centre below, Meabh Quoirin, mother of Nora Anne Quoirin, center frame, sit next to Sebastian Quoirin, father of missing schoolgirl Nora Anne Quoirin, second frame from center left, attending the verdict for inquest into the death of the Irish-French teenager. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Malaysian police have stuck to their version of events — that the teenager clambered out of a window of the family’s holiday chalet and wandered off, and insist there was no sign of foul play.

But her mother, Meabh, has said she believes someone could have placed her body in the spot where it was found, in a stream in the jungle not far from the resort.

The teenager disappeared a day after her family checked in to the Dusun Resort, triggering a 10-day hunt involving helicopters, sniffer dogs and hundreds of rescuers.

An autopsy concluded she likely died of starvation and internal bleeding.

The coroner said the teenager had been left disoriented by the long journey from Britain to Malaysia, likely leading her to wander off, and that there was no sign she was murdered or sexually assaulted.

But during the inquest, the teen’s parents said they heard mysterious “muffled noises” coming from the accommodation the night of the schoolgirl’s disappearance, fuelling their belief she was snatched.

They also criticised authorities for their response to their daughter’s disappearance as too slow. Police have insisted they conducted a comprehensive search.

The five-hectare (12-acre) resort is next to a patch of thick jungle and in the foothills of a mountain range.

The teen had a condition known as holoprosencephaly, where the brain fails to develop normally. She had limited verbal communication and could only write a few words.

She attended a school for young people with learning difficulties.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s News at One this afternoon, Meabh Quoirin said that Nóra’s family welcomed today’s decision as a step towards finding justice.

She said that “in the absence of sufficient positive proof of any other verdict, the court is bound to file an open verdict, and this is what we wanted, because after listening to all of the evidence that was put before the court during the main inquest, we realised that it was going to be impossible to push for more than that”. 

“We still feel that the circumstances surrounding Nóra’s death were suspicious, but in terms of what’s legally available for us, an open verdict was incredibly important in our quest for justice for Nora and that is what we have gotten today.” 

Nóra’s mother said the judge explained there it would have been fairly difficult, if not highly improbable,  to conclude that Nora could have died by misadventure. 

“He detailed, for example, the complexity of the terrain that she would have had to make her way through, how difficult it would have been to get out of the site where we were staying,” Meabh Quoirin said.

“Critically for us, he also took the time to recognise who Nóra was. He spent time explaining to everyone about how her physical and especially her mental and psychological constraints would have made all of those things highly improbable, and for that reason, he had to rule out misadventure, and therefore file an open verdict,” she said.

“For now, we will digest the fact that an element of justice has been served and think about the options that we have in front of us.” 

It is still a very painful journey and I think it always will be one. We’re doing as well as we possibly could be but it is a fight every day and one that we gladly take on in honour of Nóra. There’s no getting away from the devastation and sadness but we are determined to fight together as a family, and today is a big day and an important day in helping us on that journey of healing. 

“It’s nerve wracking and exhausting and at times it has been unbelievably frustrating but we have been resolute from the beginning on what we believe would be fair and the justice Nora deserves. She’s always been worth fighting for, she always will be, and we’re really pleased that we’ve got as far as we have today.”

With reporting by Lauren Boland