A Malaysian court on Wednesday overturned the ruling of an inquest that said Irish teenager Nóra Anne Quoirin died by misadventure after vanishing in a jungle, and stated that an open verdict should have been recorded.
"Having reviewed the material that was before the court, I am of the view that the verdict of misadventure should be vacated, and in the interests of justice, substituted with an open verdict, as there was no credible evidence to support any other verdict," said Seremban High Court judge Azizul Adnan.
Judge Azizul Adnan said it was not credible for the teenager to have left the holiday resort or navigate the surrounding jungle terrain alone, and for her to have evaded detection for six days while a search and rescue operation was conducted.
In August 2019, the naked body of 15-year-old Quoirin, a resident of south-west London who had learning difficulties, was found nine days after she had gone missing. Her body was found in a ravine about 2.5 kilometres from the Dusun holiday resort where her family was staying in Seremban, which is nearly 70 kilometre south of the Malaysian capital.
The decision by the higher court came after Quoirin’s family had sought a review of the Seremban Coroner’s Court inquiry, which in January 2021 had ruled the teenager had likely died of misadventure.
The Seremban Coroner’s Court inquiry had held that there was insufficient evidence to indicate foul play and said it was more likely she had simply got lost in the jungle. It had said that there was insufficient evidence to indicate foul play.
The local police had said there was no evidence that she was kidnapped and insisted that their probe was thorough. While an autopsy had claimed that Quoirin had died from internal bleeding, probably caused by prolonged hunger and stress.
The High Court’s ruling is a legal victory for her parents, who believe she was likely kidnapped. They listened to the online verdict from their home in London.
In November 2020, her mother had said that evidence may have been lost because police were slow to act on the possibility that her daughter could have been abducted.
Quoirin was suffering from a disorder that impacts the development of the brain. She had gone missing a day after arriving on 3 August, 2019.
According to BBC News, following the ruling, Judge Azizul Adnan told the family: "We have not been able to assist you in finding the answers that you may have been seeking, but I hope that these proceedings would have assisted you in some way on the long road towards healing."
While the open verdict may not mean reopening of the police investigation into her death, her mother Meabh Quoirin told Irish broadcaster RTE Radio that they “still feel that the circumstances surrounding Nóra’s death were suspicious.”
“But in terms of what’s legally available to us, an open verdict was incredibly important in our quest for justice for Nóra, and that’s what we got today,” she said.
Additional reporting by agencies