A hiker who discovered the body of Irish-French teenager Nora Anne Quoirin after her disappearance last year here testified that a Siamese monk had divulged clues on her final whereabouts, the Coroner Court heard today.
Search-and-rescue operation volunteer Chong Yue Fatt, who testified as the 28th witness at the inquest into Quoirin’s death, had earlier recounted the sequence of events that led to the discovery of the missing teen’s body on August 13, 2019.
He was asked to explain why his group — comprising experienced local hikers — had decided to search the area where Quoirin’s body was eventually found.
“I heard from Chan (our group leader) that he had contacted a Siamese monk and the monk instructed him to look for the girl near areas with a river.
“After two days of searching, Chan still hadn’t found anything but passed a river on his way back, which is why we returned to the area on the third day,” he said in Mandarin to coroner Maimoonah Aid through a court interpreter.
On being the first person to discover Quoirin’s body, Chong recalled that he had cried out to his fellow searchers after chancing upon the body that was lying on a rock near a river.
“At that time, I could not identify who it was because I was standing quite a distance away.
“There was also a makeshift hut about 50 metres from the body and the surrounding area was dense with vegetation,” he said, describing the setting as being similar to an abandoned oil palm plantation.
After alerting the group to the body, Chong said the party delegated one of the seasoned hikers to contact the authorities as mobile coverage was poor.
Without approaching the body, the group then waited for an hour or two before help finally arrived, Chong added.
Planning the search
Earlier, Chong told the court that he first became aware of the search operation through the press and was encouraged to join the search by friends.
“My friends, who hike as well, asked me to join the search since we have on occasion ventured to the nearby Gunung Berembun hiking trail, to which I agreed,” he said.
Prior to August 13, he disclosed that Chan had participated in the same search party between August 11 and August 12, but in a different search area.
On August 13, Chong said the team of some 20 people had reported for duty between 10am and 11am before heading out to the search area guided by Chan.
He described the search party as composed of only members of the public. They were not accompanied by rescue personnel.
Chong also explained to the court how the search party made preparations and improvised their method to improve their chances of finding the missing girl in the vast jungle.
“We grouped ourselves into pairs and formed a horizontal line with a 20-metre gap between each pair before entering the jungle and walking along the river that was at the centre,” he said.
When asked if it was difficult for a seasoned hiker to reach the location where Quoirin’s body was found, Chong replied in the affirmative as there were no visible hiking trails.
Quoirin, a 15-year-old with learning difficulties, disappeared from The Dusun resort last year where she was staying with her London-based family, triggering a 10-day hunt involving helicopters, search dogs and hundreds of searchers.
Her body was discovered close to the jungle retreat, and an autopsy found that she probably died of internal bleeding after spending about a week in the dense rainforest. – MMO