A court in Malaysia has overturned the decision made by the coroner in the inquest into the death of Franco-Irish teenager Nóra Quoirin and declared an open verdict.
The verdict follows an application by her parents Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin for a revision of the coroner’s original decision.
Nóra (15) disappeared from a holiday chalet in the Malaysian jungle on the night of August 3rd, 2019. Her body was found next to a stream about two kilometres from the Dusun resort in the state of Negeri Sembilan 10 days later. Her parents remain convinced that she was abducted and say she would never have wandered out of the chalet by herself.
Judge Azizul Azmi Adnan, sitting in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, said it was "not probable" that Nóra left the chalet by herself, navigated challenging terrain, and evaded detection for six days during an extensive search and rescue operation.
During the High Court hearing, which was streamed online, the judge said he had every confidence the coroner sought to take care in undertaking her inquiry, but she was in error to record a verdict of misadventure.
He said the balance and coordination issues Nóra faced, together with the fact that she tired easily, established in his view that it would have been unlikely her death was the result of misadventure.
“I am of the view that the verdict of misadventure ought to be vacated in the interests of justice and substituted with an open verdict as there was no credible evidence to support any other verdict,” he said.
Speaking after the ruling, Ms Quoirin said she and her husband could not have hoped for a better outcome. “We are really happy that, finally, someone in a position of real authority in Malaysia has been able to convey publicly for all to hear who Nóra truly was,” she said. “We feel that we’ve received a semblance of justice today, and we’re very proud to have got this far.”
Ms Quoirin said she and her husband need time to consider what further options they might have and whether there might be any further police investigation, given the new verdict.
“There are some troubling facts that emerged from the inquest and we are still left with more questions than answers, but I think Malaysia will assume that the case is now closed,” Ms Quoirin said. “We now need to think about how we proceed as a family.”
The coroner, Maimoonah Aid, ruled on January 4th that no third party was involved in Nóra’s death. She said it was “more probable than not” that the girl died by misadventure.
Judge Adnan said Nóra would either have to have clambered over broken fencing or squeezed between gaps in a gate. This would not have been impossible, he said, but it would have been very difficult for someone with Nóra’s physical difficulties.
It was also likely to have been dark, the judge said, which would have made the track doubly challenging.
Once out of the resort, Nóra would then have to have crossed rocky stream beds and go up and down steep slopes. The judge said it would have been extremely unlikely for Nóra to have been able to navigate such terrain barefoot.
He also said Nóra was a shy and retiring child who was uncurious and unadventurous and who was strongly attached emotionally to her parents. “She was also uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. She was not a rambunctious urchin who has to be constantly held in check from exploring every nook and cranny of her environment,” he said.
After a postmortem, Malaysian police said there was no evidence of foul play. They said the cause of death was upper gastrointestinal bleeding due to a duodenal ulcer complicated with perforation and the bleeding was most likely caused by prolonged hunger and stress. Nóra is believed to have died three days before her body was found.
The Quoirins say evidence supports the theory that their daughter’s unclothed body was placed at the spot where a group of hikers who had volunteered to join the search found it.
Nóra had learning and physical disabilities and attended a school for children with special needs. She was born with holoprosencephaly, a rare congenital condition in which there is incomplete separation of the right and left hemispheres or the brain is smaller than normal.