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article imageMalaysia opens inquest into French-Irish teen's death

By M. Jegathesan (AFP)     Aug 24, 2020 in World

A Malaysian coroner opened an inquest Monday into the death of a French-Irish teenager, a year after her unclothed body was found in the jungle following her disappearance while on holiday.

Malaysian police insisted there was no sign of foul play in the death of Nora Quoirin, a 15-year-old with learning difficulties, and authorities classed the case as "requiring no further action".

But her parents -- who believe there was a criminal element to her death, as they say the teen would not have wandered off alone -- pushed for an inquest, and authorities agreed.

At the start of proceedings in the city of Seremban on Monday, Coroner Maimoonah Aid said: "We are here to answer a few questions -- who is the dead person, when and how she died and whether anyone was responsible."

Quoirin went missing from the resort where she was staying with her London-based family, triggering a 10-day hunt involving helicopters, sniffer dogs and hundreds of searchers.

Her body was discovered close to the jungle retreat and an autopsy found that she probably starved and died of internal bleeding after spending about a week in the dense rainforest.

Sixty-four witnesses are expected to be called during the inquest, and the first was Mohamad Mat Yusop, the police chief of Negeri Sembilan state.

- 'Distraught' -

Mohamad told the court how he was informed the teen had been reported missing on August 4 last year, and he immediately ordered a search operation.

The following day, he visited the Dusun Resort south of Kuala Lumpur, where the girl disappeared from her room the day after her family had checked in.

"The family was distraught when I met them," Mohamad said. "I assured the father we will use all our resources to find the missing girl."

A large screen in the court showed images of the resort, including the bungalow where the family stayed.

Ahead of the inquest, the teen's parents Meabh and Sebastien Quoirin described it as "a crucial element in the fight for truth and justice for Nora".

"We hope that all avenues surrounding Nora's disappearance will be fully explored and not just the theory which the police has always favoured," they told AFP in a statement.

Earlier this month, the coroner went to the Dusun Resort and visited the area where the body was found, police said, a trip described by the Quoirin family's lawyer S. Sakthyvell as "quite thorough".

The teenager's Irish mother and French father were not present at the inquest because of the coronavirus pandemic. They will be interviewed by the coroner on a video-conferencing platform.

Other expected witnesses include police, hikers who found her body, and a British forensics expert who will join by video link.

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