Today marks 30 years since a sheep farmer discovered the battered body of 18 year-old Inga Maria Hauser in a remote spot of Ballypatrick Forest Park on the outskirts of Ballycastle, Co Antrim.
The backpacker from Munich had arrived in Northern Ireland on April 6, 1988 after taking a ferry from Scotland just a few hours before.
She was on an adventure. Travelling around Europe, discovering new parts of the world with the hope of making new friends. She’d almost finished that once-in-a-lifetime trip when she stepped off the boat that morning in Larne. Sadly, she was never seen alive again.
Inga Maria was brave. We know that because despite Northern Ireland being in the midst of a fierce bombing and bullet campaign, where innocent lives were lost week in and week out, this bright, bubbly young woman still wanted to visit, to explore the troubled province, all on her own. We also know she was brave because, as police have confirmed, she fought for her life. Her attacker responded by assaulting her so viciously, he broke her neck.
Her killer is still free and as dangerous, if not more so, than ever. He has enjoyed three decades of freedom, while the Hauser family have endured a lifetime of heartache.
SDLP MLA John Dallat, who has for the last 30 years appealed to those who have information on the murder to come forward, said today: “Wouldn’t it be great if we were to learn that the culprit has been arrested and the witnesses had broken their silence.
“Surely they must realise the whole community is behind them doing that, something which would bring peace to themselves but especially to the Hauser Family.
“Fingers crossed and prayers that those witnesses will find the strength to take the only option they have – tell it all and if they haven’t already done it, do it tomorrow.”
Below is a piece I wrote for last week’s Sunday World newspaper days after John and blogger Keeley Moss helped unveil a touching memorial to Inga Maria at the entrance to Ballypatrick Forest.
As you will read I spoke to the suspect in the case, a man who was on the very same boat as Inga Maria during that fateful journey. He lives in a tight knit and small community in Co Antrim, an area regularly targeted by police appeals for anyone, and detectives believe there are a few people, with information on her murder to come forward.
Maybe this year, someone finally will.
A SUSPECT in the brutal murder of German backpacker Inga-Maria Hauser claims police have “tortured” him over her death.
The Co Antrim man, now in his 50s, has been arrested and questioned multiple times over the shocking 1988 murder, but told the Sunday World last week: “I had nothing to do with it.”
It can be revealed the grandfather, who lives in a tiny village close to the spot where the 18 year-old’s battered body was dumped, was one of the last people to see the Munich teen alive.
He became the focus of the high-profile killing investigation after telling murder cops he saw the tourist on-board the fateful Ulster bound ferry where she met her murderer.
He has also denied he is the man police say was spotted with scratches on his face days after Inga-Maria disappeared after travelling to Northern Ireland.
The haulage worker, who we can’t name for legal reasons, spoke out ahead of the 30th anniversary of the teenager’s death.
Over 200 people gathered on Friday to unveil a touching memorial to the Munich woman at Ballypatrick Forest Park, Ballycastle, where a farmer found her beaten body three decades ago.
Following the touching service, organised by SDLP MLA John Dallat, police again made a direct appeal to a number of individuals living in rural Antrim who they believe can solve the killing.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “We are all getting older, we are moving on – is this something that you want to take with you to your grave?
“Some people are like that, but some people are not, some people struggle and I think this person is struggling.
“It is not too late now to examine your own conscience and come forward to the police.
“What we need is just those few fractional pieces of evidence to help us complete the picture. We think we are close.”
In 2016 a man was arrested but later released over the killing.
It can be revealed that a “distressed” individual living in a tight-knit GAA community in Co Antrim was close to telling cops what they knew about the sexually motivated murder some years ago.
However due to health problems, they did not go ahead.
A source said: “This person has already told someone that they know what happened Inga-Maria.
“They know who killed her, why they killed her and who helped them dispose of her body.
“It has weighed heavily on them for years and they were close to telling police formally what they knew but due to ill health it wasn’t possible.
“However officers are still hopeful this person will eventually come forward and assist.
“The guilt of knowing who was responsible for killing an innocent young woman – a sister, a daughter – who had her whole life ahead of her, is weighing heavily on their conscience.”
The Sunday World travelled to the rural village which police believe holds the key to solving Inga-Maria’s murder last week.
There we spoke to the man who locals say has lived under cloud of suspicion since the April 1988 killing.
Part of a well respected family who say the man has been “tortured” by police, he told our reporter on the doorstep of his countryside home: “I spoke to police and told them what I could. I had nothing to do with it whatsoever. I’ve been tortured over it.”
A male relative of the suspect, also spoke to this newspaper.
He said: “(Suspect’s name) was the one who went to police and then arrested for trying to help.
“He even wanted to go and meet the woman’s parents in Germany to tell them it wasn’t him, but was advised against it
“The police carried out DNA tests in the area and through that he was cleared. I also gave DNA, as did many others voluntarily.”
“It’s about time police started to ask why they are not getting a match to the DNA here, I believe it’s because the murderer is not here.
“There is no way anyone in this community would hide a murderer.”
Inga-Maria Hauser was last seen alive as she journeyed by ferry from Stranraer to Larne on April 6, 1988.
Her battered body was found dumped in Ballypatrick Forest Park, on the outskirts of Ballycastle,14 days later by a farmer walking his dog.
Her neck had been broken in what police described as a “vicious and ruthless” assault. Detectives believe her killer had a sexual motive.
Her belongings, including a diary and a camera, were laid out beside her body and revealed she had not penned one entry on her time in Northern Ireland. Eight rolls of film also showed she had not taken one picture of her short time here.
Detectives are convinced this is because she was murdered shortly after getting off the ferry.
One line of inquiry is that Inga had stepped off the boat before realising she had left a bag with her belongings on-board.
She went back but by the time she returned to exit off the foot terminal, it had been closed.
It meant she then had to leave through the vehicle exit, where it is believed she accepted a lift from a lorry driver. She was never seen alive again.
Last week police released further information about their investigation into her murder, including how cops travelled to Scotland to piece together her last movements.
A team of detectives handed out leaflets to passengers on board and spoke to those waiting in terminals at Belfast and Cairnryan.
Det Chief Supt Raymond Murray, said: “We already know Inga Maria’s movements during her journey around England from London to Bath and on to Liverpool.
“However, we need to know more about what she did and who she met while in Scotland.”
Prior to her death the backpacker travelled around England. After leaving Liverpool she journeyed to Preston and then north to Inverness in Scotland.
She took the train to Glasgow and on to Stranraer.
Mr Murray said: “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 a distinctive US Air Force badge.”
He added: “The murder was brutal, the attack was brutal and the assault was brutal.
“But there is something horrendously callous about leaving that young girl’s body lyng unattended in a forest for 14 days. All murder is outrageous but that gives another dimension to the horror of that final evening.”
Police also have a male DNA profile from the crime scene but have yet to secure a positive match.
In one of the largest screenings ever undertaken in the UK, 2,000 samples have so far failed to produce a definitive match.
However, officers are expecting the results of further testing, including a trawl of updated familial DNA samples, within days.
Mr Murray added: “We have had it from day one. It has been run and the scientists have it at the minute and those results are about to come back to the investigation team.
“We are investigators and we keep an open mind but the evidence and the information and the intelligence that we have to date has led us to focus on a very, very small number of individuals.”