Vulnerable teenager Nora was abducted from Malaysia resort, says distraught Northern Ireland-born mum
The 15-year-old daughter of a Belfast woman who vanished on a "holiday of a lifetime" was abducted from a Malaysian nature reserve, her family believes.
Nora Quoirin may have been wearing only her undergarments when she disappeared, according to local sources.
Her desperate mother Meabh and French father Sebastien said they have "no reason to believe she wandered off and is lost" - although police said there is no evidence she was kidnapped.
Speaking from Belfast yesterday, Nora's aunt Aisling Agnew said the family "consider this a criminal matter".
She said: "Nora's parents and relatives in Ireland and France are distraught at her disappearance. Nora is a child with special needs and has learning and developmental disabilities which make her especially vulnerable, and we fear for her safety.
"Nora would not know how to get help and would never leave her family voluntarily. We now consider this a criminal matter. We are appealing to everyone to assist the local police in any way they can and to pass on any information that would help locate our beloved Nora without delay."
Police chief Datuk Mohamad Mat Yusop said Nora, who was staying in the Negeri Sembilan area with her parents and two siblings, was thought to be in her undergarments when she went missing.
Asked to comment on reports she had left the resort clad only in underwear, he said: "This was based on the information provided by the victim's parents, who were the last people to see her."
Nora's dad initially raised the alarm around 8am local time on Sunday after finding his daughter missing from her bedroom at the Dusun resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state. Her window had been opened.
Malaysian police are treating it as a missing persons case. They believe Nora is still in the jungle near the resort after tracker dogs picked up her scent.
Mr Yusop said they have stepped up efforts to find Nora, with more than 170 personnel, comprising police, the fire and rescue department, civil defence, Rela (volunteer corps) and the forestry department dispatched to comb the surrounding dense jungle and hilly terrain, according to New Straits Times.
He also said they believe she is still in the jungle within the vicinity of the resort.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, he said there was no evidence Nora was abducted.
"We have no clues, no evidence to say this case is abduction," he added. "We will do our very best. We will not give up hope. We believe that she didn't go far and that she had lost her way."
He said that sniffer dogs had picked up the teenager's scent within 100m of her resort bedroom but the trail stopped there.
He said the girl's mother had reported she was only in her underwear when they put her to bed, but it was unclear if she was dressed when she disappeared because nobody saw her leave.
Yesterday, Mr Quoirin issued an appeal on social media asking for help in locating Nora.
His post read: "Our daughter Nora has now been missing for three days in Seremban, 1h 30 south of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We believe she may have been abducted and we need your support to help us find Nora." In a statement her family said Nora "never goes anywhere by herself" and there was "no reason to believe she wandered off and is lost".
A fundraising appeal was also launched in Belfast by Ms Agnew. By yesterday evening, over £28,000 had been raised.
Meanwhile, Dusun resort manager Asmat Lokman said they are continuing to search for Nora "around the clock".
"We have been giving our support to the family; they are very upset," she said.
"The police investigation is still ongoing and people are looking for her from dawn until dusk."
Child protection expert Jim Gamble from Belfast has spoken to Nora's aunt and uncle. He said: "They're in that place that is every parent's worst nightmare. The family will be going through a very difficult time and the level of anxiety will be extremely high."
He added: "I know that family are seriously considering the abduction theory, the police still seem to be pushing ahead with the missing (theory)."
He said the "key thing is that the police, while they pursue the missing theory, do not lose sight of the possibility" of other scenarios, including an "opportunistic, predatory" abduction by a third party.