The body of British schoolgirl Nora Quoirin has been found a mile and a half from the hotel where she went missing in Malaysia 10 days earlier.
The 15-year-old was found naked in a jungle ravine by hikers in an area previously combed by a multi-national team including hundreds of search-and-rescue experts, a helicopter and drones fitted with thermal-imaging equipment.
It raised questions about why she was not spotted there before. Police would not rule out foul play over her death.
The family’s spokesman Matthew Searle, of the Lucie Blackman Trust, said last night that devastated parents Meabh, 45, and Sebastien, 47, have “a large amount of questions”.
He said: “One of those questions is, has the body been there all the time or is there a criminal involvement? Was the body dumped there afterwards?”
Nora – who suffered from debilitating brain condition holoprosencephaly, which caused her difficulty walking, balancing and looking after herself – was found by a hiking group at the foot of the ravine next to a swamp and waterfall yesterday afternoon.
It is understood Nora had been wearing underwear when she went missing – but police said she was found “completely naked”.
Malaysia’s deputy police chief Mazlan Mansor confirmed a criminal investigation was still on-going alongside a missing persons inquiry.
He said he could not comment on whether someone else could have been involved in the tragedy or whether Nora had suffered any injuries.
A postmortem is due to be carried out and any further investigations will depend on the outcome.
The search-and-rescue operations will not be called off until after the postmortem, said local police chief Mohamad Mat Yusof.
Shirley Yap, a member of the hiking group that found Nora’s body, had said before setting off that they planned to search for her around the waterfall in the Pantai Hills, about 40 miles south-east of capital Kuala Lumpur
She said: “We had heard she was excited about seeing a waterfall when she arrived in the resort.
“We are going to look around that area and follow the stream down the mountain.”
The group, led by Kenny Chan, trekked through “hilly and difficult” terrain not accessible to vehicles, around a an hour and 20 minutes’ walk from the resort.
They reported their discovery to the police’s search hotline at 1.57pm.
The area had already been covered by the extensive search for Nora, who went missing on August 3, just hours after arriving at the Dusun Rainforest Resort with her parents and siblings Innes, 12, and Maurice, eight.
Detectives believe she left the family’s luxury holiday cottage through its ground-floor aluminium-framed window, before her father raised the alarm over her disappearance at 8am the next day.
Before she was found, Nora’s family had told police they believed she must have been abducted due to the severity of her disability, which left her with a smaller than average brain and meant she would “not go anywhere alone”.
Her parents, from Balham, South West London, had put up a £10,000 reward to find her on Monday.
They were yesterday taken to the area where she was discovered, and were taken inside the official cordon in an unmarked police car at 4.15pm.
Nora was airlifted to the Tuanku Jaafar Hospital in Seremban and her parents later formally identified her in the nearby mortuary.
The search for Nora included multinational co-operation by officials from the UK, Ireland, France and Malaysia, with £100,000 donated to the family by well-wishers.
Hundreds of experts, including local trackers with knowledge of the thick jungle, were among those who joined the search.
Teams, including some with search dogs, used loud hailers to call out Nora’s name and to play a recording of her mother’s voice.
A police helicopter as well as nine drones fitted with thermal imaging cameras were also deployed to scan the area through the night.
Nora’s parents were last night being comforted by family members, who flew to Malaysia from the UK and Singapore after her disappearance.
Before the discovery, mum Meabh had fought back tears as she said: “Our hearts are breaking.
“Nora is our first child and is so precious to us. She has been vulnerable since the day she was born.”
Former Metropolitan Police detective chief inspector Peter Kirkham said yesterday: “This brings the massive search for her to an end but the investigation into the circumstances will continue.
“It still remains most likely that she has woken up, disorientated after a long flight and in unfamiliar surroundings and has walked off on her own and become lost.
“But the police need to make sure no one else was involved in any way.”
Prayers for Nora
Before Nora was found her parents had a meeting with a Catholic priest to pray for divine intervention.
Meabh, 45, and Sebastien, 47, met Father George Harrison after a service at the Church of Visitation in Seremban, ten miles from their holiday home.
He told the Mirror: “The parents came to our mass and to pray afterwards. I said a prayer for them afterwards and I blessed them.
“They were here for over an hour. They were OK — calm and staying strong.”
Fr Harrison, who may be called in to bless Nora’s body, added: “We will say a special prayer for Nora again at the service on Sunday.
Meabh, from Belfast, and French-born Sebastien are churchgoers in Balham, south-west London.