by M. Jegathesan
A body was found Tuesday in the hunt for a Franco-Irish teen in Malaysia with a charity saying it is likely the missing girl, 10 days after she disappeared from a rainforest resort.
Nora Quoirin, 15, went missing on August 4, a day after checking into the resort with her London-based family.
They suspected she was abducted but Malaysian police classified it as a missing person case.
More than 350 people were deployed to hunt through dense jungle next to the Dusun Resort, not far from Kuala Lumpur, backed by helicopters, drones, sniffer dogs and divers.
Shamans conducted rituals in an effort to locate her while the investigation was assisted by police from Britain, Ireland and France.
Mohamad Mat Yusop, Negeri Sembilan state police chief, told reporters that “the body of a white female” was found just before 2:00 pm (0600 GMT) after authorities received a report from a member of the public.
“It was found two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the Dusun Resort where she was staying. The body is intact,” he said.
He said the body had not been identified.
But the Lucie Blackman Trust, a UK charity that supports the families of British people missing overseas, said that it “sadly seems likely” to be the teen.
As news emerged a body had been found, police vehicles raced to an area home to palm oil plantations and fruit trees, and a cordon was put up around the site.
– Reward offered –
The discovery came a day after her family offered a 50,000 ringgit ($11,900) reward, donated by a Belfast business, for information that could lead to her return.
“Nora is our first child. She has been vulnerable since the day she was born,” said a family statement.
“She is so precious to us and our hearts are breaking. We are appealing to anyone who has information about Nora to help us find her.”
At one point, her mother Meabh fought back tears as she made an emotional speech thanking the search team, with the girl’s French father Sebastien by her side.
The 12-acre (five-hectare) resort where the teenager disappeared from is next to a patch of thick jungle and in the foothills of a mountain range.
Her family said it would be extremely unusual for the reserved youngster to have wandered off on her own.
She has a condition called “holoprosencephaly”, which means she has a smaller-than-normal brain, and has limited verbal communication and cannot write more than a few words.
She attended a school for young people with learning and communication difficulties.
While officially treating it as a missing person case, police did not rule out other possibilities.
An open window was found in the cottage where the family was staying at the resort.
Police have questioned a number of people, are examining fingerprints found on a window, and looking into reports that villagers heard a truck early on the morning that the girl disappeared.
© Agence France-Presse