Nora Quoirin's head teacher doubts she could have climbed a fence

Nora Quoirin’s head teacher tells teenager’s inquest it is ‘unimaginable’ that she could have climbed a fence at Malaysian jungle resort due to her physical disabilities

  • Head teacher Michael Reeves testified into the inquest into Nora’s death today 
  • Nora attended Garratt Park School in Wandsworth, for special needs children 
  • The teacher doubted she could climb a fence given her physical limitations 
  • The family maintain Nora was abducted but police say she climbed out a window
  • Nora vanished from Dusun rainforest resort, around 45 miles from Kuala Lumpur, where she had been staying with her parents and siblings on August 4 last year

The head teacher of French-Irish teenager Nora Quoirin has told the inquest into her death that it is ‘unimaginable’ that she could have climbed a fence at the Malaysian jungle resort she disappeared from due to her physical disabilities. 

Michael Reeves said on Wednesday that Nora ‘wouldn’t have the confidence to walk on her own’, adding that she had ‘balance issues’ that would make it ‘unimaginable’ that she could have climbed the fence by herself.

Authorities insist there was no foul play, but her parents believe the 15-year-old was abducted from the resort where they were staying, insisting that she would not have wandered off on her own. 

Nora, who had learning difficulties, vanished from the Dusun rainforest resort, around 45 miles from Kuala Lumpur and was reported missing on August 4, 2019.

Her unclothed body was found over a week later in the Malaysian jungle, less than two miles from the holiday home, after a massive hunt through the rainforest.

The head teacher of the school Nora Quoirin (pictured) went to has said that it is ‘unimaginable’ that she could have climbed a fence and wandered off on her own. Nora disappeared from her family’s Malaysian holiday home on August 4 last year. Authorities insist there was no foul play but her parents believe she was abducted

Nora, from Balham in south-west London, was born with holoprosencephaly, which is a disorder that affects brain development.

As a result, she attended Garratt Park School in Wandsworth which teaches children with special needs, where Mr Reeves is the head teacher.

Mr Reeves, who said he saw Nora daily at school and taught her on a numer of occasions when covering for an absent teacher, told the inquest that she had difficulties with ‘holding balance and posture’ and had ‘weak core muscles’.

The 59-year-old said that he believed had Nora found herself alone in the dark, she would have stopped ‘to shout for her parents’ and ‘stay still wherever she was’.

He added: ‘She would have found it [walking over rough terrain] exceptionally difficult even over a short distance,’ the BBC reported.

‘The idea of Nóra climbing over fencing is unimaginable. She might have climbed over something a foot or so high, but no more than that,’ he said.

Michael Reeves, the head teacher at Garratt Park School in Wandsworth which teaches children with special needs, told the inquest that given her physical disabilities, Nora would have found it very difficult to walk over rough terrain by herself

Mr Reeves told the inquest that Nora found it difficult to take part in PE lessions, saying ‘Physically she was one of the most vulnerable pupils in the school, because of her balance issues.

‘Nora’s gait was quite fragile. She really didn’t have the confidence to walk off by herself.’

Both of Nora’s parents have spoken during the inquest that continues in Seremban, with both saying  they heard noises on the night she vanished from their Malaysian chalet. 

Parents Sebastien (right) and Meabh Quoirin (pictured calling for their daughter with a megaphone last year) maintain that their daughter was abducted. They have both said they heard noises on the night of their daughter’s disappearance 

Speaking at an inquest on November 12, her father – Sebastien Quoirin – said he did not get out of bed to investigate because he was in a ‘state of semi-consciousness’. The teen’s mother, Meabh Quoirin, made similar claims in her testimony on the previous day. 

Sebastien Quoirin said he ‘heard some muffled noise coming from the chalet’ late at night on the day the London-based family arrived.

‘I could feel it was close… I cannot describe the nature of the noise,’ he said, speaking via video-link as he could not attend the hearing in person due to the coronavirus.

The 48-year-old Frenchman did not get up to investigate, however, saying he was in a ‘state of semi-consciousness’. 

Speaking on November 11, Meabh Quoirin said that at one point during the night she ‘was aware of muffled sounds inside,’ like two people whispering. 

‘I was in between sleeping and being awake, so I wasn’t really processing my thoughts normally … it caused me no alarm because I wasn’t fully conscious,’ she said.

Sebastian Quoirin, bottom centre, the father of missing schoolgirl Nora Anne Quoirin, testifies via video link because of the coronavirus as part of an inquest into the death of the Irish-French teenager, a year after her body was found in the Malaysian jungle

They discovered their daughter was missing the next morning. A 10-day hunt involving hundreds of rescuers followed, before the schoolgirl’s body was found close to the resort.

A window latch on the chalet was broken, but the teen’s father did not believe she could have climbed out alone as she struggled with mobility and balance.

‘She has no survival instincts. I could not understand how she could have got out of the chalet and ventured out of the resort herself,’ he said.

He said the teen’s feet were uninjured when her body was discovered, which would be unusual if she spent days wandering in the jungle, and believes she could have been kidnapped and then abandoned.

‘The abductors could have realised she was a liability following the extensive police search and widespread media attention,’ he said.

The family have criticised authorities for responding slowly after the teen’s disappearance but police say they conducted a thorough probe and there is no indication of kidnapping.

An autopsy found the teen had probably starved and died of internal bleeding – but her family pushed for the inquest, which is expected to continue into December.

Meabh Quoirin has accused police of refusing to believe her daughter was abducted, and claimed evidence may have been lost because they were slow to act.

Meabh broke down at one point during her four hours of testimony at the inquest on Wednesday. 

She spoke at length about Nora’s disability, saying it would be almost impossible for her daughter – who weighed only 66 pounds – to push open and climb out a window with her limited strength and disability. 

Quoirin said Nora wouldn’t necessarily have cried for help because she was ‘highly submissive,’ which could prove why there were no markings of struggle on her body. 

‘She would just be silent and stare at the floor and close in on herself,’ she said. 

A map shows the Dusun Resort near Seremban in Malaysia where Nora disappeared last year

Her mother told the inquest evidence may have been lost because police were slow to act on the possibility that her daughter could have been abducted.

The mother, who is Irish, said police were more focused on search and rescue, and only started looking for fingerprints and interviewing resort staff several days later, by which time many people had passed through the property. 

She said that the police officer sent to take her statement also struggled to communicate effectively in English and that she had to explain herself repeatedly.

Some senior police officials who later approached her were also ‘quite rude and arrogant,’ telling her to be calm and let police do their job, she said.

‘My own understanding was that the dominant commitment was in search and rescue, and it took a long time to mobilise and explore any criminal route,’ Quoirin told the inquest via video conferencing from her London home.

‘I believe that criminal evidence, if it existed, would have been lost during that time.’

Nora’s disappearance from her family’s cottage at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on August 4 last year, a day after her family arrived for their vacation, sparked a massive search. 

Her naked body was found on August 13 beside a stream in a palm oil estate about 1.6 miles from the resort.

Police have told the inquest that an investigation showed no criminal element, and that there was no indication Nora had been abducted. 

Police believe Nora climbed out of a window on her own, and the autopsy showed she succumbed to intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress.

But Meabh Quoirin and her French husband, Sebastien Quoirin, say Nora was kidnapped because she had mental and physical disabilities and couldn’t have wandered off on her own.

The window couldn’t be locked because the latch was broken, the family have said. The children slept in the loft, while she and her husband were in the master bedroom downstairs. 

Quoirin said her younger daughter woke up near dusk to go to the bathroom and noticed that Nora was already missing, but thought she had gone to sleep with her parents. 

She noted that the area where Nora was found has been repeatedly searched, and that given the steep and hilly terrain, her body was in fairly good condition, with only minor bruises and scratches. 

‘Why does her state of body not reflect that of someone constantly moving or exposed to the harshest of elements?’ she said.

‘I don’t want to speculate on the motivation of the abduction,’ she said. ‘It is possible and reasonable to believe that any plan that was conceived at any point may have to change by the sheer volume of attention focused on Nora’s case. … I believe that Nora could have subsequently been released by her captors.’

Nora’s two siblings will also testify in private. Later this month, a British doctor who conducted a second autopsy on the teen’s body will also testify remotely.

The Quoirin family has sued the resort owner for alleged negligence. They said in their lawsuit that there was no security at the resort and that a cottage window with a broken latch was found ajar the morning Nora disappeared.    

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