The definitive account of the only case of its kind in Northern Ireland, the ongoing campaign for justice and a labour-of-love in memory of the victim of a murder mystery still officially unsolved after 31 years
By Keeley Moss
PART 31 – CONTENTS Chapter 82: A Candle for Her Cause Chapter 83: No Birds Do Sing Acknowledgements for Part 31
Chapter 82: A Candle for Her Cause
The highway calls…
The House of Love – ‘Road’
For anyone who hasn’t been following the last ten instalments of this blog, this is the next stage of my retracing Inga’s movements by undertaking a solo backpacking trip on an Interrail pass through England, Scotland and the north (and south) of Ireland for the purpose of researching my book about Inga and her case (which is a separate work to this blog) and to pay homage to Inga’s memory by trying to complete the journey that she was murdered in the process of trying to complete…
By this point I had been on the road for three days. Which doesn’t sound very long, but during that time I had managed to cover a lot of ground, just as she had. She came so far (a lot further than me, due to her starting from her home in Munich in the far south of Germany whereas I started the same journey from my home in Dublin).
The train journey to Inverness alone (covered in Part 24) took twelve hours. From having studied Inga’s movements in detail in advance of the trip it occurred to me that the effort she had gone to in travelling as far as she had was something that has been overlooked in media reports over the years, but now having retraced many of those steps it was even more apparent just how true this was. When people try to get their heads around what Inga went through the night she was murdered, it’s important to bear in mind that she hadn’t just crossed the road to be in Larne – she had travelled thousands of miles. All on her own and all the way from the furthest point south in Bavaria, close to the Austrian border, up through Germany, into the Netherlands and all the way across the country to the Hook of Holland, across to Harwich (an 8-hour ferry journey back in 1988) then on to London before moving on to Cambridge and returning to London in order to get to Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Liverpool then onwards to the furthest point north of Scotland, Inverness, then back across to the furthest point west via Glasgow, Ayr and Stranraer and then across the North Channel to Northern Ireland. Just writing that itinerary that would make most people dizzy but Inga didn’t just write it – she lived it. She came so far, fortified by the zest of a first-time traveller and bolstered by the hope of achieving her “greatest dream”, of reaching the island she was in her own words “looking forward to best” – Ireland.
And now here I was at the same place Inga was on April 6th 1988, poised to complete the next stage of this spiritual mission, and with very mixed feelings for obvious reasons. One of the most important sections of the trip would involve sailing on the latter-day equivalent of the Galloway Princess, sailing from Cairnryan nine miles up the road from Stranraer to Larne on the same evening ferry crossing, and as a foot passenger just as Inga had been. Although the volume of foot passengers sailing on board cross-channel ferries has declined sharply since the mid-1990s as the advent of cheap flights has taken its toll, commercial transport business which had always been the lifeblood of the shipping industry remains as strong as ever. As a result, there were proportionately more lorry drivers in comparison with foot passengers on the night I made the crossing, and roughly the same amount of lorry drivers as there would have been on the night Inga sailed on the Galloway Princess. Nevertheless prior to sailing I anticipated no problems, expecting nothing more than a reflective if poignant experience on the boat.
But first, and unlike Inga when she was in Stranraer, I found myself with some time to kill in the town. I have a real soft spot for the place on account of it being the last place on land where Inga was on her own and therefore safe and well. For that reason, although it still feels like a heavy place emotionally because her brief time here preceded the horror that would follow, it has a different kind of darkness from that of Larne or Ballypatrick Forest. Since the transfer of the town’s shipping to Cairnryan in 2011, the heart has been sadly ripped out of it, something that was palpable during my stay. And of course, being situated where it is right on the water’s edge of the North Channel, there is no shield from the elements. If it’s windy there are few places windier than Stranraer and if it’s cold, there are few places colder (even then, it’s still not as cold as Ballypatrick Forest).
Having spent the day examining in detail Stranraer Harbour, Stranraer train station and as much of the old ferry terminal area as possible (as covered in Parts 28-30) I paid a visit to Stranraer museum and library. I thought there was little chance of there being anything in Stranraer to commemorate Inga’s brief but significant presence here back in 1988, and sure enough that was the case. There is nothing, nothing at all to suggest that she had ever been here. If you passed through here and you weren’t aware of the facts of the case, you wouldn’t know there was a connection with her. But she was the reason I had come all the way here and she’s the reason an entire community is holding a candle for her cause. One of the most poignant and most bittersweet facts of her story is how she’s made a huge impression on so many people, and the thousands of people in the 109 countries around the world who read this blog, without any of us ever having met her. That is something extraordinary. With all due respect I don’t think there are many people in history, living or dead, who could have that sort of effect on people. This is why I believe Inga’s case is even bigger and more important than anyone realises.
I had only made it to the museum fifteen minutes before it closed, so I was soon back on the streets of Stranraer. Being there I was struck by how small a town it is, having lived most of my life in Dublin so far, I often forget how big a city Dublin is and by contrast how few places there are to go to in a small town such as Stranraer. After a browse in the local charity shop, I sat for a while in a nice cafe called Dnisi’s to have something to eat but within a few minutes it closed as well. I went back out and tried to find somewhere warm to shelter but there was nowhere open apart from a pub, and being teetotal I’m not crazy about pubs at the best of times. I still had an hour to wait before the shuttle bus to the ferry, so decided to head back to the place with the strongest connection to Inga, namely the train station and the old ferry terminal area. It was now dark, and very blustery, but I didn’t know when I would get a chance to get back to what is such a remote place again, so I wanted to spend as much time at the station and ferry terminal area as possible. I had learned during the small hours of the night before (as covered in Part 28) just how spooky and isolated a place Stranraer station is after dark but being perpetually drawn to the deep end, I was not for turning.
I passed by the unlit old ferry terminal area and stared into the faceless void that lay beyond the wire mesh fence in the pitch dark. It felt eerie to be looking into nothingness. It was not unlike looking at the individual suspected of being her primary killer, an expressionless wall of emptiness. Soon I reached the railway platform again. It still felt so strange to know that she had actually been here, had actually walked here, in this very spot, in a time shortly before everything changed forever. It felt intensely frustrating to be here now, armed with the uselessness of hindsight. Having paid my respects, it was time to return to the centre of the town to catch the shuttle bus to the ferry terminal. I was bracing myself for a heavy emotional experience on the boat, but not for a moment did I think there would be any issues otherwise. The world has changed a lot since 1988, after all. I would soon see however that the world has perhaps changed less than I thought.
Chapter 83: No Birds Do Sing
It’s a dream and it screams in your head
Well it’s a deep blue sea
An impossible dream
The House of Love – ‘Hope’
The shuttle bus appears at the bus stop outside Dnisi’s on time and I climb aboard and pay my fare. I assumed there’d be a bunch of other backpackers joining me. But not only are there no other backpackers, there are no other people full stop. As anyone who has followed all ten of the last parts of this blog may recall, this is not an isolated occurrence. Time and time again during this trip I’ve found myself the only passenger on trains, in train stations and in passenger waiting areas. It’s as if no one goes to any of these places. After waiting a few minutes in vain for any more passengers to board the bus, the driver pulls out and begins the short drive to nearby Cairnryan just nine miles up the road. Upon arrival at the ferry terminal, I get off the bus, enter the building and present myself at reception where I collect my boarding pass. Everything is deemed to be in order and next I’m directed to the waiting area for foot passengers.
Again, there is no one else here, and during my time waiting no one else arrives. The palpable sense of isolation I had felt throughout this trip was increasing. After a while I’m beckoned to the security area where I’m subjected to a rigorous frisking and have some orders barked at me by the first unfriendly Scottish person I’ve met, a female security officer with all the courtesy of a bulldog. I’m commanded to put my backpack through the security scanner, and then having passed through a body scanner I’m led towards a corridor, and out into a backyard where to my surprise a van is awaiting. The van looks like it could accommodate no more than six or seven people, tops – surely this couldn’t be the full extent of the foot passengers that would be travelling on the ferry? In fact, it is even fewer. I’m the only woman, and the last to board, there are four guys already sitting in the van and that’s it. How they got there I do not know as they definitely weren’t in the waiting area inside the terminal. The van sets off and we drive in silence and in darkness to the ship, with all the lights switched off inside the van, which further compounds the weird sense of isolation. There’s an ambience of no allegiance, very much a case of ‘Together Alone’ to quote Crowded House. I would ordinarily crack a joke to break the ice, but my instinct tells me that such a move will fall on deaf ears among my fellow foot passengers.
The journey doesn’t take long, the van driving through the port and up onto the vehicle deck of the ferry before we are ushered off. The other foot passengers quickly scurry through the door and up the staircase towards the passenger deck but I’m the last to get off, and given that I have a very different reason for being here, retracing the footsteps of a very special person with almost limitless artistic potential who was in the course of a brave and beautiful mission and who was subjected to the cruellest and most ferocious death imaginable, I can’t help but linger longer. I find myself standing in the vehicle deck, with a convoy of lorries directly behind me.
And then there it is. The smell. An unmistakable aroma hits me instantly upon climbing off the van and into the belly of the boat. It’s the odour of a noxious night, the coldness of the coast combined with a petrol-scented air. A fragrant indicator of a place where no birds do sing, where freight takes the place of feelings, where everything and everyone is transitory. A mechanical, cold and unfeeling aroma that I’m not to know is a precise precursor to the sort of energy I will encounter during the crossing…
TO BE CONTINUED
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2020. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 31
Road & Hope written by Guy Chadwick. Published by Colgems-EMI Music, Inc. O/B/O EMI Music Publishing Ltd. ©1988