Belfast Telegraph

We are torn between anguish and hope, says missing Nora's grandad

A rescuer searches for Nora Quoirin
A rescuer searches for Nora Quoirin
Nora Quoirin
Sylvain Quoirin
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The grandfather of 15-year-old Nora Quoirin has revealed that there have been many sleepless nights since the vulnerable young girl, whose mother is from Belfast, vanished without a trace in Malaysia six days ago.

Sylvain Quoirin, who is closely monitoring the ongoing search for Nora from his home in north-central France, also told how the family's emotions were torn between "anguish and hope" while his young granddaughter remains missing.

"Nora, darling, I love you, Mum is here," was the heartbreaking call that rang out in the jungle yesterday as rescuers played tear-jerking recordings of her mother Meabh's voice on loudspeakers in the southern Negeri Sembilan state.

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 from where she disappeared on Sunday.

Hundreds of people have been searching for Nora day and night, Interpol is involved and a helicopter and drones have also been deployed - but no trace of her has yet been found.

Mr Quoirin, who has steadfastly refused to believe that Nora wandered off by herself, described her as "fragile" and said the days since her disappearance have been "very difficult" with "many sleepless nights".

"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 said that Nora was sleeping in the same room as her younger brother and sister prior to her disappearance, adding: "We know when children sleep, they sleep."

And he confirmed that her parents "heard nothing" untoward the night she vanished.

While Mr Quoirin, mayor of Venizy, also said he believed that "important steps" are being taken to find her, he nevertheless voiced concerns over sinister elements he felt could be at play and said the country'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."

Meanwhile, Nora's uncle Pacome has created a second campaign from France to collect money in euros, in addition to the GoFundMe effort being led from Belfast, which has now raised over £63,000.

Police are examining unknown fingerprints which were found at the Malaysian jungle cottage where she disappeared, adding to the family's fears that she was abducted.

Nora, her French dad Sebastian, mum Meabh, 12-year-old sister and nine-year-old brother arrived at the resort on Saturday, August 3 for a two-week stay.

Her father raised the alarm at 8am local time the following day when he realised that Nora, who had been put to bed in her undergarments, was gone.

Yesterday, the local authorities revealed pictures of an open window on the ground floor of the cottage, saying they were sure that Nora had left through it.

Malaysian police have said they still believe the schoolgirl, who has learning and developmental disabilities, remains in the area of jungle where the search is focused.

District police chief Nor Marzukee Besar said rescuers are using recordings of her mother's voice "as if the family is calling her" and playing them over loudspeakers in the jungle.

"We still believe this missing person is still within our search vicinity," he said.

Detectives have questioned 20 people so far and said a forensic team was analysing the fingerprints found in the cottage.

Investigations are still ongoing to work out who the prints belong to and whether they could be those of an outsider or criminal.

A helicopter with thermal imaging equipment is being deployed, and divers have also been sent to search rivers, while two drones and sniffer dogs have also been deployed in the huge search operation. Malaysian authorities are also said to be in contact with Interpol as they probe the mystery disappearance, and pictures of Nora have been distributed to police elsewhere in Malaysia.

The resort's management said in a Facebook post that its employees were "extremely distressed and worried" about her disappearance and were assisting in the search.

The teenager's family said yesterday they were "overwhelmed" by the support they had received and remained "hopeful" of finding Nora.

Her distraught aunt Eadaoin Agnew read out the family's written statement on video, explaining that Nora's parents were too heartbroken to talk about the gruelling situation themselves.

"This is extremely traumatic for the whole family," she said.

"Meabh and Sebastien are understandably devastated and too upset to speak themselves at this time.

"But we must remain hopeful and we ask everyone to keep Nora in their thoughts and to continue to support the ongoing search for her.

"Nora is still missing and she is very vulnerable, and we need to do everything we can to bring her home."

Officers have been divided into six teams who are searching an area of jungle about 2.5 square miles in size.

Top child protection expert Jim Gamble has called for the National Crime Agency (NCA) to assist in the search because it has "the expertise to support the Malaysian authorities in a way that I don't believe anyone else has".

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