‘Inga was a beautiful girl with her whole life in front of her, her death was a national shame’

It remains one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious cold-cases, still unsolved after 31 years.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 4:49 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 2:46 pm
Inga Maria Hauser
Inga Maria Hauser

It was in April, 1988 when a pretty young blonde schoolgirl from Munich named Inga Maria Hauser, a budding singer with intrepid spirit to match, decided to go backbacking during the Easter break, and full of the anticipation of adventure, primed to see something of other countries and cultures, she set out to visit England, Scotland and Ireland.

Her friend Walter Schreiner, who first met Inga in their local youth club in the mid-1980s, said of the budding young adult: “Every person who knew her loved her. She was always smiling, she was always shining and was very intelligent.”

A girl with charm and wit and all before her then, setting off to see new sights and meet new people in a different culture to her own; a brave soul, unfazed by the prospect of travelling alone.

Poignantly, Inga had already noted the friendliness of the local people.

During her travels one of the 18-year-old’s postcards home from England said: “The people here are so helpful and lovely that I can’t imagine anything bad could happen to me”.

A note in her diary added: “The day after tomorrow I am going on to Ireland. I’m looking forward to that the best.”

She got the ferry from Stranraer, arriving in the port town of Larne on April 6. But she would never make it to her next destinations of Belfast and then Dublin.

Two weeks after she was last seen alive, her dumped mutilated body, having, acorrding to Police, been subjected to “a vicious and ruthless” sexual and physical assault, was found by a sheep farmer in a remote part of Ballypatrick Forest near Ballycastle.

Here was the life of a beautiful girl cut senselessly short, her dreams and hopes for the future callously denied and a family back in Germany plunged into unimaginable grief.

In the 31 years since the horrific murder both of Inga’s distraught parents have died without seeing justice served.

Her mother Almut passed away in October of this year. Her father, Josef, died in 2006 from cancer. Both were hearbroken that the case was never solved; that they were denied answers, a perpetrator or perpetrators brought to justice.

Inga’s sister Frederika was particularly badly affected by her sister’s death, her son Viktor told a BBC programme last year:

“Siblings always have a little tension around them. But they were really close, even though they were quite different. There is a German saying - ein Herz und eine Seele - one heart, one soul.”

Of the pursuit of justice for Inga, Viktor said: “It would be especially important for my mother. I hope if the murderer gets caught, my mother can finally leave this behind and we can be free of this curse.”

SDLP MLA for East Londonderry John Dallat has been involved in the campaign to find Inga Maria Hauser’s killer for many years; for him the quest to find those responsible for Inga’s death has become a life-long priority and passion project.

He was instrumental in getting the case reopened by the PSNI last year after the files were closed due to lack of progress.

John said: “I remember when Inga was murdered and my heart went out to her family. I was a young father then to a young girl who I hoped would grow up also and travel the world - and she did. Every parent expects their child to be able to travel without being murdered in the brutal way that Inga Maria was. After ten years of campaigning the parents said they weren’t coming back and so I assumed that role fighting for justice for Inga. And it has been a long struggle.

“This is a personal and emotional struggle for me and it has been a great privilege getting to know Inga’s only sister Frederike Leibel. She has one son, Victor, who visited last year, and stayed with us.

“In all the years since Inga was murdered they only received a series of letters in English and weren’t even aware for a long time that they were entitled to legal representation. The support they received was not good.

“But we want to focus on getting whoever did this heinous crime to be brought to justice.”

Since a memorial stone to Inga was erected in Ballypatrick Forest Park on the 30th year of her death, well-wishers have left tokens at the site, flowers, soft toys, cards, religious objects.

This week John Dallat’s granddaughter Caitlin laid a wreath at the headstone to mark 31 years. The hope is to send the Hauser family a festive message of support - that their beloved sister and aunt has not been forgotten; the difficult quest for answers continues.

The also plan to erect a German flag to acknowledge Inga’s home country and to signify that she was the only international student to die here in Ulster during the Troubles.

“Christmas means nothing to the Hauser family since they lost their beloved Inga in one of the most brutal murders ever recorded and all the more reason why we need to show that we really care,” continues John.

“The family know that Inga hasn’t been forgotten and they have recovered hope that justice may still be done.”

In May last year, a 59-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of the murder by police investigating the case and later released on bail pending further inquiries.

Detectives said they believe several people may have been involved directly in the murder, or in the subsequent cover-up, and said they only need fractional piece of evidence to bring the chief suspects to justice.

Police also found a male genetic profile at the murder scene, although have yet to find a match.

The Public Prosecution Service is now in receipt of a lengthy file of evidence against the chief suspect.

Dallat continued: “The fact that a file has gone to the Public Prosecution Service after 31 years is welcome news and offers some hope to the Hauser Family.

“It represents the first chink of light in a long struggle for justice for their daughter Inga who died a most brutal death at the hands of a killer who was intent on raping a young girl over here during a school break to find out about a country that her parents loved.

“Perhaps the saddest thing about the murder of Inga is the silence of those who know who did it, but that silence cannot be sustained for much longer.

“Hopefully the file which has gone to the Public Prosecution Service will be a historical development which will bring closure to a family who have suffered in silence for far too long”, Mr Dallat added.

“It is our responsibility and that of the police and courts to redouble our efforts to ensure that those involved in Inga’s murder are brought to justice.

“I am so sorry that my efforts and that of others haven’t achieved their purpose so far.

“But I remain confident that sooner, rather than later, that justice will be done and that the retribution Almut and Josef were denied will be delivered.”

Dallat is clear about what he would like to say to those responsible for, or who know something about, Inga’s murder:

“I urge them to admit their guilt. It’s not easy to give evidence against people who were perhaps once friends. But we believe there are witnesses out there who must do the right thing and demonstrate some level of decency.”