15-year-old Nora was described as playful and vulnerable by those who knew her best. Which is why her death in a Malaysian jungle, far from home, in questionable circumstances, is impossible to accept, writes Amanda Cassidy.
The horror of losing a child. The horror of losing a child far from home. The horror of losing a child who is vulnerable in circumstances such as these - starving to death, alone and terrified. Or worse, according to her family, maybe even at the hands of someone else.
We all woke up to the devastating news that the teenager was found dead after going missing 10 days previously. We were all overwhelmed by sadness that this family's grief was only just beginning.
Nora and her family, from Balham, South-West London, were staying at the luxury Dusun Rainforest Resort when she went missing on August 4. Her mother was Irish and her father French which is why the search and rescue mission was International. Her body was found near a waterfall that she had talked about visiting, an area that had already been searched in the days previously.
Immediately after her disappearance, Nora's family suspected she'd been taken. They expressed doubt that the teenager who had learning difficulties would venture away from her parents. They offered a substantial reward for her safe return and said they would not give up hope.
When the child's body was found, naked and with scratch marks, those fears intensified. Had her body been moved? How had the poor girl died?
After a postmortem examination observed by a National Crime Agency officer as well as French and Irish police, Malaysian police announced that Nora had died after suffering intestinal bleeding, probably caused by starvation and stress.
A solicitor, speaking on behalf of her parents, said they were still looking for answers and refused to rule out a criminal element. Charles Morel said the 15-year-old’s parents Sebastian, 47, and Belfast woman Meabh, 45, found it “difficult to understand” that she would leave a Malaysian resort alone.
He said: “It’s not in her temperament to go out in the night after a long trip in a place she doesn’t know, in the jungle. “Even the place where she was found, 2km from the resort, it’s very strange that she could go there by herself alone, so we cannot exclude the criminal hypothesis.”
It is a horrific thought - that her short life was snuffed out by somebody else. But equally devastating is the thought that she wasn't - that she spent days and days stumbling through the jungle terrain, slowly starving to death, frightened and lost until she lay down and passed away.
'Her poor parents' we say to each other, 'isn't it so sad'. We all know that even though it shouldn't be the case, Nora's parents will carry the burden of her death for the rest of their lives. We understand they will beat themselves up wondering if they could have done something different, anything to make sure that the doors were locked, that she wasn't disorientated after her jet lag, that she didn't sleep alone, that she didn't stray away from her loving family into the bleak night to die.
Her heartbroken parents will bring her home. Their questions remain. Today they issued a statement saying;"Today the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Minister for the State paid their respects to our family.
"We had the opportunity to thank them for everything that the Malaysian government, police, search and rescue teams, local people and volunteers have done to help us. Tragically, as we know, this wasn’t enough to save Nora. The initial post-mortem results have given some information that help us to understand Nora’s cause of death.
But our beautiful innocent girl died in extremely complex circumstances and we are hoping that soon we will have more answers to our many questions. We are still struggling to understand the events of the last 10 days."
They will carry her forever in their heavy hearts, but it is unlikely they will ever accept her death.
Image via Lucie Blackman Trust/Family