Nora Anne Quoirin inquest: Handler says search dog failed to scan teen's scent thrice on first day of disappearance

Negri Sembilan police’s K-9 unit handler Sergeant Poo Kong San is pictured at the Seremban Court Complex August 27,2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Negri Sembilan police’s K-9 unit handler Sergeant Poo Kong San is pictured at the Seremban Court Complex August 27,2020. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

SEREMBAN, Aug 27 ― A Police K-9 Unit handler testified in the Coroner’s Court today, revealing that a German Shepherd search dog had failed to detect the scent of Irish-French teen Nora Anne Quoirin on the first day of her disappearance last year.

Negri Sembilan contingent K-9 Unit handler Sergeant Poo Kong San who was testifying as the fifth witness at the inquest proceedings to determine the cause of Quoirin’s death, said the search dog failed a total of three times when ordered to do so at The Dusun resort on August 4, 2019.

Poo recalled how he had received a call for assistance for a K-9 Unit in relation to a missing persons incident that took place at The Dusun resort here around 2pm that day.

“Nilai district investigating officer, Inspector Wan Faridah Mustanin had called for backup and we made preparations to head to the location from our kennel.

“Around 2.50pm we reached the scene and I ordered the dog to begin his scent detection by guiding him to the window where the missing persons was last seen.

“At the same time, one of the family members also provided a cloth previously worn by the missing girl for the dog to smell and I also guided the dog around the house to obtain a scent,” he told Coroner Maimoonah Aid.

Poo who was amongst the first search-and-rescue responders at the scene, said the dog failed to elicit any form of response or reaction despite efforts to identify a positive scent trail within 50-metre radius.

“Usually when the dog has obtained a scent, he will elicit an excited response. In this case, the dog failed to react accordingly after an hour has passed,” he said, adding that the dog also showed no response when brought to the house’s window.

The second attempt was around 5pm, Poo said, with the existing search radius expanded to more than 30-metres but less than 100-metres.

“The dog then guided us out of the resort to a nursery north of the house where the girl was last seen, close to the resort’s Dusun Walk.

“Subsequently, the dog then walked past the nursery and entered the jungle located behind the nursery,” Poo said.

According to Poo who has a 20 years of dog handling experience, observation on the dog’s behaviour and gait at the time had indicated that the dog failed to detect a scent.

Despite so, Poo said the search team continued to follow the dog into the jungle for a distance of around 200 metres before the dog traversed down a steep hill into a tar road.

Poo said then dog then continued walking towards the resort back to the house where the girl was last seen and was rested accordingly.

He said the investigating officer then asked him to resume tracking for the third time around 8pm following a request from the family in the same surrounding area but the dog still failed to obtain a fixed scent.

Asked what were the factors that could affect a dog’s smelling ability, Poo explained that weather, crowdedness of a place and geography of the surface were the most common.

Following the three failed attempts, Poo said the dog was allowed to rest as it suffered from pre-existing health conditions such as hip and hind legs issues.

He also affirmed that his involvement in the entirety of Quoirin’s search-and-rescue operation was limited to only August 4, 2019.

Tracker dog’s health condition

In a subsequent query by Quoirin’s family lawyer, S. Sakthyvell, Poo testified that the dog was around four-years-old and suffered from the aforementioned pre-existing health problems due to its age.

He also revealed that the dog was subsequently brought to a vet clinic and given a medical certificate following that night, adding that sniffer dog units from Bukit Aman then took over for the remaining days of the operation.

To a question by lawyer Aliff Benjamin Suhaimi who is representing The Dusun on whether pre-existing health problems would affect a dog’s ability to smell a scent, Poo replied in the affirmative.

Nora Anne, a 15-year-old with physical and 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, sniffer dogs and hundreds of searchers.

Her body was discovered about 2.5km from the jungle retreat and an autopsy found that she likely died of internal bleeding linked to starvation after spending about a week in the dense rainforest.

The inquest resumes September 1.

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