A Malaysian court Wednesday overturned an inquest verdict of “misadventure” in the death of a French-Irish teen who vanished in the jungle, replacing it with an “open” ruling in a victory for her family.
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 body of Nora Quoirin, a 15-year-old with learning difficulties, was discovered after a huge hunt 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 Wednesday, 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.
– Massive hunt –
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.