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What Happened to Nora?

The disappearance of Nora Quoirin from a Malaysian holiday resort flooded talk radio and the
ever speculative Twitter threads of summer 2019. What drew this story to Ireland and tugged at
the hearts of the nation was the word ‘Irish’ planted in front of the young London teenager’s
name, dominating newspaper headlines across the nation. The narrative of Nora Quoirin
changes depending on the country, platform and style her story is discussed in. For this
investigative feature, the indisputable facts of the case, the online community’s reactions and
proposals are going to be central to Nora Quoirin’s disappearance.

What happened to Nora?

The short answer is, no one knows. Public information states fifteen year old Nora went on a
family holiday to the Dusun eco-resort with her parents and two younger siblings. They stayed in
a holiday house wedged just outside the dense Malaysian jungle. On the morning of August
fourth at 8 am, Nora’s father discovered her bed empty. It seemed that she had vanished.

A factor that contributes to the uniqueness of Nora’s case is her learning disability,
holoprosencephaly. A comment from the Lucie Blackman Trust on behalf of the Quoirin family
describes how the disability the teenager was born with impacted her brain size, making it
smaller and less developed than the average. Further statements from the Lucie Blackman
Trust paint a vivid picture of Nora’s personality and everyday life. She depended on her good
memory for what she could not understand conceptually and her trusted family for basic tasks
such as making phone calls and tying buttons.

The alarm from the family was raised quickly. No one could believe Nora would have willingly
left the house. According to her French grandfather, Nora could not bear to be without her family
and had a close bond with her mother. The police were contacted by the resort owner while the
guests and Nora’s family conducted the first of many searches for Nora.

From the very beginning of the investigation, Nora’s parents, Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin, had
a theory cemented in their minds. They felt the only way their shy and sensitive daughter could
have left was by an outside force. This narrative the family championed from the beginning
washed over the media, with everyone expecting an abduction to have taken place in the dead
of night. The Malaysian police insisted there was no evidence to point to foul play, but they were
treating the case as a potential abduction.

The first theory came from one of Nora’s siblings. They pointed to the bedroom windows sitting
high above the beds of Nora and her two siblings in the loft. According to her sibling it was open
the morning of Nora’s disappearance. This theory as an escape route for an adult and a
panicking child was quickly set aside. Published pictures show this window as high, narrow and
with a long drop to the ground. Attention was then turned to the large glass window downstairs,
a more realistic escape route.

This sparked the first of many comparisons Twitter users across the world found between the
Quoirin and the McCann families. In August, it had only been a few months since the Madeline
McCann investigative documentary series, “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann”,

revisited the McCann case. It helped shed new light on the 12 year old investigation and
brought amateur social media detectives out in numbers, determined to put their own spin on
the events in Portugal.

It was easy to match up the shadows of Kate and Gerry McCann with those of Nora’s parents.
For starters, they both took holidays to untypical holiday locations with their children, both cried
‘kidnapped’ when they discovered their child’s bed empty and they both had an open window as
their evidence. It seemed all too easy for the media and Twitter users to compare the two cases
personality wise, as well. Mr. Quoirin’s alleged outburst and rage at the Malaysian police
seemed to mimic Gerry McCann’s frustration with the Portuguese police. Both men had similar
attitudes when addressing the public: a silent, almost brooding figure behind their wife. Mrs.
Quoirin is under a harsher spotlight than Kate McCann. Many online posts and even newspaper
articles couldn’t help but put the two women side by side. Her unemotional response and lack of
tears were highlighted. Many concluded this made the plead for her child to return home
unauthentic.

And, most crucially, both parties refused to be questioned by the police and returned home,
seeming to want their ordeal to end.

The Dusun resort where the family was staying is located just footsteps away from thick
forestry. An examination of the reviews left about the resorts paints guests having a fantastic
visit or one they wished they had never taken. Multiple reviews tell stories about bugs and
reptiles, low quality hygiene in their holiday houses, and owners with an attitude towards their
guests. One guest reported in their review feeling uncomfortable when an off-duty staff member
‘watched’ her family in the pool.

The reviews also show a vacation that would not make Nora’s bucket list. One review on
TripAdvisor noted ‘you cannot lock your room’, and another eerily noted in 2018, ‘try to arrive at
the property when there is still light. The slope is steep and narrow.’

A search was formed to look for Nora in the jungles surrounding the resort, the most obvious
place Nora could have stumbled into and gotten lost. The search party for Nora featured the
police, volunteers experienced with the terrain, local tribes and even a shaman – a person who
has access to the world of good and evil spirits. The shaman’s theory was Nora was lured into
the forest by a genie.

While the volunteers were posing for media outlets in the jungle holding up dangerous snakes
and the shaman was investigating a possible genie kidnapping, the police were analysing
unidentified fingerprints found on the downstairs window of the Quoirin’s holiday home. Due to
Nora’s special needs, search teams blasted a recording of her mother, Meabh’s, voice calling
for Nora. The search teams carried speakers as they moved through the large forested area.
There was still optimism that Nora was wandering the forest lost and would follow the sound of
her mother’s voice.

On August 13th, the search ended 600 metres away from the eco-resort. After nearly two weeks
of searching a female body had been found by hikers. The body was naked and positioned in a
sleep-like state with her hands behind her head next to a waterfall. It was luck the hikers had
seen her. The pale body was hundreds of metres down impossible-to-climb terrain. Mr. Yeap, a

hiker, told the Daily Mail: ‘It looked like she was sleeping. Her head was resting on her hands.
But we all knew she was dead.’

A helicopter was used to airlift the remains from the location. There was no real doubt of who
the body belonged to. The Lucie Blackman Trust released a statement saying it was ‘most likely’
that the body was Nora’s. That night, Nora’s parents were called to the Tuanku Jaafar hospital
to identify the body as Nora’s. This officially ended the search for Nora and the hope that she
could still be alive.

The next step for the Irish media was the autopsy results. Her undressed body and strange
placement pointed to sexual abuse and abduction, but the autopsy came back with the results
no one was expecting. Cause of death: intestinal bleeding. Intestinal bleeding can be caused by
extreme stress and/or hunger. Unfortunately, these results indicate that Nora could have been
alive up to a week after the beginning of the search for her. It concluded there was no evidence
of foul play.


But this did not stop questions pouring onto social media: “Isn’t dehydration a quicker killer than
hunger?” “Where were her clothes?” “How did she get down to the waterfall?” And, most
frequently seen, “where was the body when the teams searched the area earlier in the search?”

The Malaysian police confirmed the area had been searched, but acknowledge that the terrain
and size of the forest made the overall search difficult. There is still speculation on, other than
Nora being missed by the search party, whether or not the body was moved there by a third
party or Nora wandered into the area and fell. No conclusion, in this case, gives any certainty,
only more questions to be asked.

The Quoirins are entitled to a second autopsy, according to Malaysian Deputy Health Minister,
Dr. Lee Boon Chy. “It is their right. We are confident in the professionalism of our pathologists.
Our confidence is not shaken." However, for the Quoirin family it seems doubtful they have the
same level of confidence. It is unclear at the present whether they will go forth with a second
autopsy. It is becoming very clear they are done with the media and the microscope they have
been put under.

In a statement made by the Lucie Blackman Trust, the family’s clear frustration with the
unwelcomed theories and questions surrounding them has been shown. “Nora’s family are
concerned that continued reporting of comments such as those recently reported are unhelpful
and may hinder any investigations, as well as causing confusion and distress for them.” After
this, any new information concerning the family’s whereabouts and Nora’s burial were kept
secret.

The only available information up until recently about Nora’s funeral is that she would be buried
“close to her loving families in France and Ireland”. It was announced her funeral would take
place on the 10th of September in Belfast.

However, not all members of the Quoirin family remain quiet. Nora’s Grandfather, Sylvain
Quoirin, a French man and mayor of a small town in Burgundy, has not been shy about
speaking out and sharing his beliefs. His faith in the autopsy performed in Malaysia is non-
existent. He stands by his beliefs that he knows his granddaughter. Shy, dependent Nora would
never leave the holiday house willingly without her family.

Several Twitter users were quick to disagree with this despite with Mr. Quoirin’s belief and
personal knowledge of Nora, creating theories that included the girl waking up in the middle of
the night jetlagged and the French mafia having a role in Nora’s death.
Mr. Quoirin is equally as blunt when he speaks to media outlets such as the Irish Times telling
the newspaper, “She wasn’t there yet [during previous searches]. Someone put her there, to get
rid of her.”

Even though Nora’s body is being laid to rest it does not seem like the end of this investigation.
Although the Malaysian government has closed its forensic examination, too many unanswered
questions await answering. Fortunately, there are a group of people willing to go the lengths to
find the answers. Mr. Quoirin using his influence in French society as mayor has encouraged
the French government and services to take over the case and shed new light on it. He insists
half-French Nora is one of their own. The Quoirin’s have hired a French lawyer, Charles Morel,
to look further into the case. He shares the family’s suspicions. He remarked, ‘we cannot
exclude the criminal hypothesis’, showcasing his faith in the autopsy results.

Coupled with that, welcomed theories are emerging for the Quoirin’s, who are being advised by
Jim Gamble who has worked on the Madeline McCann case. The seasoned crime specialist has
said that the lock on the downstairs window was faulty, meaning it could not be locked from the
inside. This can be related to a review mentioned earlier in this Feature claiming that the doors
could not be locked and were broken. Mr Gamble has pointed to this piece of evidence as a
reason to believe someone could have entered or gotten out.

The questions running throughout this case aren’t the typical how’s and why’s seen in
investigations into suspicious deaths. There is almost no solid evidence to direct anyone in any
direction but the spot by the waterfall where Nora was found. The rest is theory, confusion and
the overwhelming sense of not knowing how Nora had spent the last days of her young life. The
Quoirin family seem to want only one thing at the present – answers which will bring peace to
them and their memory of Nora.