A Malaysian court has overturned an inquest verdict of death by misadventureof 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 of Nora Anne Quoirin was accidental, but the new ruling suggests there are still questions to be answered and leaves open the possibility of criminal involvement.
The body of Nora, a 15-year-old with learning disabilities, was discovered after a search through the rainforest after 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 Nora’s 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 the family’s favour on 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.
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 say there was no sign of foul play.
However, Nora’s 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 probably died of starvation and internal bleeding.
The coroner said the teenager had been left disoriented by the long journey from Britain to Malaysia, which probably led her to wander off, and there were no signs that she had been murdered or sexually assaulted.
During the inquest, Nora’s parents said they heard mysterious “muffled noises” coming from the accommodation the night of her disappearance, fuelling their belief she was snatched.
They also criticised authorities for their response to their daughter’s disappearance as too slow. Police have said they conducted a comprehensive search.
The 12-acre (5-hectare) eco 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 disabilities.