KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The mother of an Irish-French teen whose body was found last year near a Malaysian jungle resort where she vanished while on vacation said Wednesday that evidence may have been lost because police were slow to act on the possibility that her daughter could have been abducted.
Meabh Quoirin told an inquest into her 15-year-old daughter's death that she believed she heard "muffled and whispering" sounds of two people inside the family's cottage the morning Nora Anne Quoirin disappeared, but that she took no action because she was asleep and not fully conscious at the time.
The mother, who is Irish, said police were more focused on search and rescue, and only started looking for fingerprints and interviewing resort staff several days later, by which time many people had passed through the property. She said that the police officer sent to take her statement also struggled to communicate effectively in English and that she had to explain herself repeatedly.
Some senior police officials who later approached her were also "quite rude and arrogant," telling her to be calm and let police do their job, she said.
"My own understanding was that the dominant commitment was in search and rescue, and it took a long time to mobilize and explore any criminal route," Quoirin told the inquest via video conferencing from her London home. "I believe that criminal evidence, if it existed, would have been lost during that time."
Nora's disappearance from her family's cottage at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on Aug. 4 last year, a day after her family arrived for their vacation, sparked a massive search. Her naked body was found on Aug. 13 beside a stream in a palm oil estate about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the resort.
Police have told the inquest that an investigation showed no criminal element, and that there was no indication Nora had been abducted. Police believe Nora climbed out of a window on her own, and the autopsy showed she succumbed to intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress.
But Meabh Quoirin and her French husband, Sebastien Quoirin, say Nora was kidnapped because she had mental and physical disabilities and couldn't have wandered off on her own.
Meabh Quoirin broke down at one point during her four hours of testimony at the inquest, which is being is held via video conferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She spoke at length about Nora's disability, saying it would be almost impossible for her daughter — who weighed only 30 kilograms (66 pounds) — to push open and climb out a window with her limited strength and disability.
The window couldn't be locked because the latch was broken. The children slept in the loft, while she and her husband were in the master bedroom downstairs. Quoirin said her younger daughter woke up near dusk to go to the bathroom and noticed that Nora was already missing, but thought she had gone to sleep with her parents.
Quoirin said that at one point during the night she "was aware of muffled sounds inside," like two people whispering. "I was in between sleeping and being awake, so I wasn't really processing my thoughts normally ... it caused me no alarm because I wasn't fully conscious," she said.
Quoirin said Nora wouldn't necessarily have cried for help because she was "highly submissive," which could prove why there were no markings of struggle on her body. "She would just be silent and stare at the floor and close in on herself," she said.
She noted that the area where Nora was found has been repeatedly searched, and that given the steep and hilly terrain, her body was in fairly good condition, with only minor bruises and scratches. "Why does her state of body not reflect that of someone constantly moving or exposed to the harshest of elements?" she said.
"I don't want to speculate on the motivation of the abduction," she said. "It is possible and reasonable to believe that any plan that was conceived at any point may have to change by the sheer volume of attention focused on Nora's case. ... I believe that Nora could have subsequently been released by her captors."
Her husband is due to testify on Thursday. Nora's two siblings will also testify in private. Later this month, a British doctor who conducted a second autopsy on the teen's body will also testify remotely.
The Quoirin family has sued the resort owner for alleged negligence. They said in their lawsuit that there was no security at the resort and that a cottage window with a broken latch was found ajar the morning Nora disappeared.