The family of a 15-year-old daughter of a Belfast woman who disappeared from a nature resort in Malaysia have said they believe she has been abducted.
Nora Quoirin’s family say they discovered her missing from her bedroom at the Dusun resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on Sunday morning, with the window left open, and considered it a criminal matter.
The police said there were no initial signs of foul play but Nora’s family said they had “no reason to believe she wandered off and is lost”.
In a statement released on Tuesday, they added: “Nora’s family believe she has been abducted.
“We are especially worried because Nora has learning and developmental disabilities, and is not like other 15-year-olds.
“She looks younger, she is not capable of taking care of herself, and she won’t understand what is going on.
“She never goes anywhere by herself. We have no reason to believe she wandered off and is lost.”
Police have expanded the search for Nora, with more than 160 personnel now looking for the teenager, who has special needs, local media reported.
Those searching dense jungle and hilly terrain on foot and by helicopter include police, the fire and rescue services department, civil defence and the forestry department, Malaysia’s The Star reports.
Sniffer dogs are also being used in the search for Nora, who is the daughter of an Irish-French couple who have lived in London for about 20 years.
Police said local indigenous people - known as Orang Asli - are also helping with the search.
Negeri Sembilan police chief Mohamad Mat Yusop told a press conference on Tuesday that there was no evidence Nora had been abducted.
“We have no clues, no evidence to say this case is abduction,” the police chief said. “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 100 metres from her resort bedroom but the trail stopped there.
He added the girl’s mother had reported that she was only in her undergarments when they put her to bed but it was unclear if she was dressed when she disappeared because nobody saw her leave.
Villagers who joined in the search expressed concern over Nora’s fate.
“This particular jungle, for outsiders, they don’t know how to navigate, they get lost. Natives like me, we are used to this jungle,” said Bali anak Akau.
Haanim Bamadhaj, a resort spokesman, said the Dusun management is baffled by Nora’s disappearance.
Resort staff and even some guests had earlier joined in the search, she said.
“Our resort has been operating for 10 years and we have never even been robbed. We are doing our very best and praying hard,” she said.
Following Nora’s disappearance, she said some guests had cancelled their bookings and that the resort had provided full refunds.
Missing persons charity the Lucie Blackman Trust (LBT) had previously said Nora’s disappearance was being treated as an abduction.
The girl’s family said they were treating the disappearance as a “criminal matter”.
Speaking to LBT from Belfast, Nora’s aunt, Aisling Agnew, said: “Nora’s parents and relatives in Ireland and France are distraught by 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.”
Nora’s father raised the alarm when he discovered her missing from her bedroom at 8am local time on Sunday. Her window had been opened.
Nora, whose mother Meabh is originally from Belfast and whose father is French, is understood to have been travelling on an Irish passport.
A spokesman for Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said: “We are aware of the case and providing consular assistance.”
An online fundraising page set up by Nora’s aunt has raised more than £10,000.
The fundraiser on gofundme.com says Nora’s families in Ireland and France are “distraught”, adding: “More family members are travelling to Malaysia to participate in the search-and-rescue effort and would appreciate donations to cover any unforeseen expenses or charges incurred in the process.”