Last Friday, detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Serious Crime Branch have travelled to Scotland to appeal for information about an unsolved 30-year-old murder.
It is part of a two-week operation to mark the anniversary of the death of German backpacker Inga Maria Hauser whose body was found in a remote forest in Northern Ireland.
Investigators believe that communities in Scotland may hold vital information in relation to Inga Maria’s movements during her two day visit to the country before she embarked on the Stranraer to Larne ferry on April 6, 1988.
The 18-year-old’s 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.
“Today I am making a specific appeal to people who may have had contact with Inga Maria 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 on to 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 was comfortable socialising with people of all ages, and from all backgrounds, and had a keen interest in meeting new people.
"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.
“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.”
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.
“After 30 years it’s not too late to tell us what you know by calling the detectives in Maydown, Northern Ireland, on 02871379783.”