Nora Anne Quoirin inquest: Search dogs failed to pick up girl’s scent throughout SAR operation, court told

KLIA Police district K-9 Unit handler Sergeant S. Simon is pictured at the Seremban Coroner's Court September 2, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
KLIA Police district K-9 Unit handler Sergeant S. Simon is pictured at the Seremban Coroner’s Court September 2, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

SEREMBAN, Sept 2 — Multiple police search dogs failed to detect the scent of Irish-French teen Nora Anne Quoirin throughout the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation launched following her disappearance last year, the Coroner’s Court heard today.

The ninth witness at the inquest proceedings to determine the cause of Quoirin’s death, KLIA police district K-9 Unit handler Sergeant S. Simon, said his German Shepherd dog failed to pick up a scent on the first day of his assignment on August 6, 2019.

He earlier explained that he was informed the day before, on August 5, 2019, of the need for his unit’s technical expertise in the ongoing search operation at The Dusun in Negri Sembilan where Quioirin had gone missing.

“Upon arriving at the scene, I was led to the house where the girl was staying and asked a family member if they could provide anything for the dog to smell because we had no clue as to where to start.

“I was then provided some white attire, presumably worn by the missing girl, and I allowed the dog to sniff it to obtain a scent to begin tracking, and we started by searching the surrounding area at random.

“The search lasted about two hours and there was no positive indication (of the victim’s scent) whatsoever,” he told Coroner Maimoonah Aid.

He also pointed out how he had gone to a nearby Hindu temple and a river south-east of The Dusun with a search party, with the dog failing to show any positive indication of a successful scent pickup while traversing the rocky riverbank.

Simon and his search dog were involved in the SAR operation that lasted a total of four days — August 6, 8, 11 and 12.

Despite failing to achieve any positive outcomes, Simon recounted the thoroughness of the SAR operation for the missing girl which had involved areas both inside and outside The Dusun.

“I would say it (the operation) was done very thoroughly because most of the work was performed by the dog and we covered a lot of ground. Even if certain areas are inaccessible to us, the dogs are on a long leash and they will give an indication if they detect a scent.

“But there was no indication whatsoever exhibited by my dog as compared to other cases we have been involved in,” he added.

 To a query by Quoirin’s family lawyer, S. Sakthyvell, on whether a dog’s age would affect its ability to smell, Simon clarified that age only affects a dog’s physical performance and stamina, not its ability to smell airborne particles.

“It is not determined by age because smelling uses the nose and memory, but age would affect a dog’s physical performance like human beings when they age,” he said in reference to his search dog’s age of 10 years.

He also affirmed that the dog did not show any positive indication of a scent when brought to the window through which Quoirin was said to have left the house where she was staying.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Police Training Centre (PULAPOL) K-9 Unit handler, Corporal PD Manimaran, also said his German Shepherd dog failed to pick up any explicit scent belonging to Quoirin during his assignment throughout the SAR operation.

Mainimaran, who was testifying as the 10th witness at the inquest, said his dog usually exhibits certain traits only his handler would recognise when it discovers the scent that it is tracking.

“For my dog, when it has found a scent during tracking, its ear and nose dip towards the ground and his tail wags slowly. That is the indication and I would know whether he is doing this or not.

“On the first day, he did exhibit (such traits), he was going all over the place looking for something but couldn’t find it,” he replied to a question by Sakthyvell on whether his dog showed any exceptional behaviour throughout the search.

Manimaran and his dog were assigned to track Quioirin on August 5, 7 and 13.

Like Simon, he also agreed that the SAR operation was conducted thoroughly and described how he personally trekked through the jungle and off-road across a wide area both within and without The Dusun.

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 nude body was discovered close to the jungle retreat and an autopsy found that she probably starved and died of internal bleeding after spending about a week in the dense rainforest.

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