Detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch have today launched a two week operation on the 30th anniversary of the murder of German backpacker Inga Maria Hauser whose body was found in Ballypatrick Forest in North Antrim.
They are renewing their appeal for assistance from the public, in particular the local community in North Antrim, as well as people who may have seen her travelling in England, from London northwards and in Scotland, before she embarked on the Stranraer to Larne ferry on April 6 1988, as they may hold vital information about who killed the 18 year old woman.
Inga Maria travelled to Northern Ireland on April 6 1988, arriving in Larne on a ferry from Scotland. Her body was discovered in a remote part of Ballypatrick Forest on the outskirts of Ballycastle on April 20 1988. Police believe that Inga Maria died shortly after she arrived in Northern Ireland and that she was subjected to a vicious and ruthless assault.
The officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, said: “On the 30th anniversary of Inga Maria's murder, police are launching this operation spanning Northern Ireland and Scotland during which we will be following a number of specific lines of enquiries. We will be making a number of appeals for information as well as placing posters with Inga Maria’s photograph at various crucial locations and releasing new information into the public domain. We hope this sustained approach will help jog people’s memories and encourage anyone who knows anything about the murder to come forward to police.
“We still believe we are extremely close to progressing criminal justice action against Inga Maria’s killer or killers.
“One strand of this operation is to identify the man whose DNA was found at the crime scene. A previous DNA screening process was one of the largest ever conducted and involved many hundreds of people, throughout the UK.
“As time evolves so does DNA science so we have carried out further familial DNA screening and are keeping an open mind about where this will lead the investigation.”
Detectives are also making a specific appeal to people who may have had contact with Inga Maria on her travels in England and particularly Scotland before she made the fateful journey to Northern Ireland.
“We already know Inga Maria’s movements during her journey around England from London to Bath and onto Liverpool, however we need to know more about what she did and who she met while in Scotland. From her diary and notebook entries we know she left Liverpool, travelled to Preston and then onto Inverness.
“She was excited about coming to Northern Ireland as she wrote a postcard to her friend in Germany saying ‘My journey through England is wonderful - I'd rather not comeback. The day after tomorrow - it's on to Ireland - which pleases me most of all.
“On her last day alive – April 6 we know from her diary entries she travels by train from Inverness to Glasgow and then onto Stranraer before boarding the Sealink Galloway Princess to Larne at 7pm. Her notebook entries read: 'Morning has broken in Scotland.Breakfast in Inverness. Nice town. Have to see the Loch Ness monster one day. Going to Glasgow now. Snowy mountains and wild landscape. Scotland is beautiful.' To date investigators have been able to gain only limited information about her activities in Scotland including those she met or had contact with.
“My appeal today is to anyone in Scotland who would have come into contact with Inga Maria, or who saw her during her time in the country or on the various train journeys from London to Inverness, Inverness to Glasgow and from Glasgow to Stranraer to contact police. I appreciate a lot of time has passed but we need to know places Inga Maria visited. We know she cashed travellers’ cheques in Inverness but that is all. She will have stood out from the crowd with her German accent and distinctive style of clothing – she was wearing baseball boots and a long, flowing skirt possibly multi-coloured, a jacket, possibly denim with a large blue rucksack. On top of this rucksack was a smaller bag with distinctive USAF badge.
“According to her diary and notebook entries she was excited about her trip to Northern Ireland and it is a fair assumption that she would most likely have chatted to passengers on the train or ferry asking questions about where to visit in Northern Ireland or where she could stay.
Inga Maria’s friends and family describe her as an open, friendly, popular person, who wascomfortable socialising with people of all ages, and from all backgrounds, and had a keeninterest in meeting new people.
“We have spoken with witnesses who saw her on the ferry but we need to hear from anyone who saw her once the ferry had docked in Larne as this is where the trail runs cold. Did she leave the ship with anyone, did she leave in someone’s vehicle or did she leave as a foot passenger?
“Her last notebook entry on April 6 reads: 'Went from Glasgow to Ayr and from there to Stranraer to get over to Ireland. Saw the sea. Beautiful and mysterious. Wonder where I stay tonight. Need more money.' Sadly, Inga’s final resting place in Northern Ireland was in Ballypatrick Forest.”
The murder investigation has received a lot of attention over the years from PSNI.
Detective Chief Superintendent Murray believes anyone with information about who killed Inga Maria owes it her family to come forward so they can have closure after 30 years.
“Inga Maria’s family deserve to know what happened. Her father died not knowing who killed his daughter and her mother has been ill for many years. The family have been tortured by her murder and we have been in close contact with Inga’s heartbroken sister in the run up to this anniversary. Do the decent thing for Inga’s sister and mother.
“I cannot rule out the possibility that more than one person was involved in Inga Maria’s death. I also have a report that a man in the rural area east of Ballymoney was seen soon after the murder in April 1988 with scratches on his face and that there was concern in the community that he had some sort of involvement.
“I am making a direct appeal to the family and friends of the murderer or murderers to come forward. Thirty years has passed and in that time we have to ask not only what impact this murderer has had on the Hauser’s but what impact has he had on his own family. How has it affected them? If you are a family member who has information or who even assisted the killer or killers in the aftermath of the incident, search your conscience as now is the time that common humanity should override misplaced loyalty.
“Give us the information we need to take this investigation forward and place him before the courts. What if this was your daughter or granddaughter – subjected to a brutal and ruthless assault after arriving in a new country before being killed and left in a forest. Think of the fear and pain she felt, think of her family not having justice.
“After 30 years, it's time to tell us what you know - contact Police by calling detectives in Maydown on 02871379783.”
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information that will assist the investigation to contact us on the non-emergency number 101. Information can also be passed anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.