Footprints believed to belong to missing schoolgirl Nora Quoirin have been discovered, it has emerged.
The 15-year-old, whose mother is from Belfast, was reported missing from a holiday resort in the southern Negeri Semblian State of Malaysia on Sunday morning.
During the fifth day of searching on Thursday, dogs from the K9 Unit of the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department picked up the footprints in a densely-forested search area spanning 6km around the resort.
Ahmad Mukhlis Mokhtar of the Fire and Rescue Department revealed the latest developments in the search at a press conference on Friday.
He said the department is optimistic that Nora, who has special needs and has been described as "very vulnerable", is within the radius of the forest.
“We are assisting the police in the search by deploying our K9 Unit, as well as 55 personnel, which include 30 from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya," he said.
“The search area remains within 6km of the resort, and our focus is on the forest. Each agency involved is divided into six groups.
“Previously, our detective canines had spotted footprints, but when we conducted a search there, we couldn’t find her."
Since Nora was reported missing, the search team trying to find her has expanded to more than 250 people, made up of police officers, fire and rescue service personnel, members of the civil defence force and others.
Drones, divers and a helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera are also assisting in the search.
Police are treating Nora's disappearance as a missing person's case, however her parents believe she may have been abducted.
On Thursday, police began playing a recording of the missing teen's mother, Meabh, through loudspeakers as they carried out searches, in the hopes of finding her.
A recording of Nora Quoirin's mother calling for her daughter is being used by police searching for the missing London teenager in the Malaysian jungle.— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 9, 2019
For more updates on the search, click here: https://t.co/Cq5mUQFtIi pic.twitter.com/jpR2ZJKT5X
"Nora, darling, I love you, mum is here," the heartbreaking recording said.
Trackers comprising indigenous tribes famed for their forest skills were also calling out Nora's name as they combed the dense forest and undergrowth surrounding the Dusun eco-resort.
Police have also released pictures of a window in the cottage where the Quoirin family were staying that was found to be open on Sunday morning.
They have also forensically examined fingerprints found in the cottage, however they have yet to determine who they belong to.
Speaking on Thursday, Nora's grandfather Sylvain Quoirin, who is closely following the case from his home in France, told of how the family is torn between "anguish and hope" as the search continues.
"Imagine a town far from everything... a girl who disappears like that... a reputable hotel, a house on a slope..." he said during a French radio interview.
He also spoke of how "sinister elements" could be at play and said Malaysia's reputation is at stake.
"It's not good for Malaysia if it is seen as a country where children can be kidnapped as tourists. It's very bad for them," he told France Bleu.
"That said, Kuala Lumpur is a huge city. If mafia networks are at the heart of this case, it will be complicated, very complicated."