KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A British pathologist said Monday there was no positive evidence that a French-Irish teenager found dead last year near a Malaysian jungle resort was sexually assaulted, but he couldn't fully rule it out due to severe body decomposition.
Nathaniel Cary, a forensic pathologist who performed a second autopsy on the body of Nora Anne Quorin in the United Kingdom, said he agreed with Malaysia’s findings that the teen died of intestinal bleeding due to starvation and stress.
But he also told a Malaysian virtual inquest into Nora's death that he couldn't fully exclude that the teen was sexual assaulted as sometimes it may not show. He also said the poor condition of the body made it hard to determine if there were semen traces or the DNA of strangers.
“I think we can exclude very serious trauma to the genitalia ... but I won’t be able to exclude minimal trauma because of the decomposition obscuring things,” Cary said from the U.K. “The difficulty here is because of the decomposition, the forensic evidence would be disadvantaged to an extent."
Nora disappeared from her family’s cottage at the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state on Aug. 4, 2019, a day after her family arrived for a vacation. After a massive search her body was found on Aug. 13 beside a stream on a palm oil estate about 2.5 kilometers (1.6 miles) from the resort.
Nora was only wearing her underwear when she went missing but her body was found naked. It was unclear what happened to her underwear, but police said the autopsy showed no sign she was sexually assaulted. Police also told the inquest that investigations showed no criminal activity nor any indication Nora had been abducted. Police believe she climbed out of a window on her own.
Her family believes she was abducted because she had mental and physical disabilities and couldn’t have wandered off on her own.
Cary said the Malaysian autopsy had been thorough but still, it was difficult to ascertain “in what circumstances the death occurred” due to decomposition.
He agreed with Nora's family lawyer that foreign DNA, if it exists, could also have been washed away as her feet and hands were immersed in water for a few days before her body was found.
Asked by the family's lawyer, Cary agreed that he couldn't exclude the possibility that her body may have been placed there after her death, given that rescuers had searched the specific location. He also agreed there was no evidence Nora had any major falls in the rough terrain despite her physical disabilities.
However, Cary said the multiple lacerations and scratches on Nora's body indicated she had moved through dense undergrowth. The cuts on her feet were also “not trivial," he said. Nora's parents had told the inquest they noticed her feet “didn’t seem to be particularly damaged” when they identified her body.
“I see no reason to dispute the (Malaysian) findings, although like me, the Malaysian pathologists were clearly disadvantaged by the decomposition," he added.
Nora's parents in their testimony earlier had spoke at length about her disabilities, and said she would not have the stamina nor instinct to survive in the jungle on her own.
The inquest is being held via video-conferencing due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is expected to conclude next month but a verdict may likely only be delivered next year.
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 the window with a broken latch was found ajar the morning Nora disappeared.