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Malaysia probes criminal element in UK girl's disappearance

SEREMBAN, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian police said Wednesday they were analyzing fingerprints found in a forest resort cottage where a 15-year-old London girl was reported missing and did not rule out a possible criminal element.

Police earlier said there were no initial signs of foul play in Nora Anne Quoirin's disappearance from the Dusun eco-resort in southern Negeri Sembilan state Sunday morning. Her family discovered her missing from her bedroom and say they believe she was abducted.

Negeri Sembilan deputy police chief Che Zakaria Othman said that a forensic team was analyzing fingerprints found in the cottage where the girl disappeared from but declined to give details. He also clarified that it was the window in the living hall downstairs that was left open, and not the one in the bedroom upstairs where the girl was. Her siblings were sleeping in another room upstairs. He declined to say if the window could be open from the inside, saying the investigation was ongoing.

"Although we classified this case as a missing person but we are not ruling out any possibility... the scale of investigation and the search and rescue is very big for a small place here," he told a news conference. He said the investigation includes a possible criminal element.

Zakaria said a special team from the federal police headquarters as well as from the forensics and criminal investigation departments were assisting. The rescue operation involves more than 200 people working on shifts through the night but police are still clueless as to the girl's whereabouts and are appealing for information, he said.

"We still have hope and believe that she is still in the area. There is no information to show that she has left the area," he added. The girl's family insisted in a statement Tuesday that they did not believe she just wandered off on her own.

"Nora's family believe she has been abducted," the statement said. "We are especially worried because Nora has learning and developmental disabilities, and is not like other 15-year-olds. She looks younger, she is not capable of taking care of herself, and she won't understand what is going on."

Quoirin's parents are an Irish-French couple who has lived in London for about 20 years, according to the Lucie Blackman Trust, a British charity that supports people involved in a crisis overseas. Quoirin arrived with her family on Saturday for a two-week stay at the Dusun, a small resort located in a durian orchard next to a forest reserve about 63 kilometers (39 miles) south of Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the girl's relatives were seen trekking at the hill in the search Wednesday. Police blocked access to the resort due to the search operation. Police have expanded the search to the riverbed at the foothill of the resort on assumption that she could head downhill to try and find water. Local indigenous villagers and police canine teams have also been deployed to try and track down the girl.

Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

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