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 5 - CONTENTS Chapter 28 - Port in a Storm Chapter 29 - Town to Town Acknowledgements for Part 5
Chapter 28 – Port in a Storm
Stick to a story long enough and the story sticks to you
Conor O’Callaghan, Nothing On Earth
Recently I visited several places related to the case for the first time. One of these was the Port of Larne – the last place where Inga-Maria is known for certain to have been alive. I found it a very emotional experience. Over the months I have been writing and blogging about her I feel the case has seeped into my pores and burrowed a permanent space in my brain. That might sound melodramatic, but when you become immersed in a case and a labour-of-love to the extent that I have with this, it haunts the majority of your waking thoughts, you find your mind overtaken by it during so many moments of everyday life. Every song I listen to I hear as a soundtrack to a movie in my mind about the case. Anything I see that dates from long ago I think of the date in relation to it. I watch an interview with soul legend James Brown and notice that it was taped on April 4th 1988 – when Inga-Maria was making her way through the UK…I pick up a library book and see from the date stamps at the front of the book that it was borrowed in March and June of 1988 – the former while Inga-Maria was still alive, the latter after she had lost her life in such horrific circumstances. I think of her, and the various aspects of the case, constantly. It’s in my thoughts first thing in the morning, and on my mind last thing at night.
I’d like to share with you some of the images taken during my recent visit to Northern Ireland, involving some places unseen or only rarely seen by most people. There wasn’t enough time to visit Ballypatrick Forest, and I think I’d rather leave the emotional enormity of that place for another time anyway. Visiting the Port of Larne, and later travelling to both Cloughmills and Loughguile, which as I explained in Part 3 of this blog are two of the three villages confirmed as being linked to the case by the PSNI, was I think enough for one day. I also got to briefly visit both Ballymena and Belfast, the former being one of the places that could have been driven through by the killer or killers and Inga-Maria on the night she was murdered and the latter being Inga-Maria’s intended destination from Larne that she never got to reach. That I subsequently travelled from Belfast to Dublin, the journey she had planned to make had she ever reached Belfast in the first place, made it all the more poignant.
Although some things about the Port of Larne have changed in the almost twenty-nine years since the fateful night in question, much has remained unchanged. For instance, although the Stranraer-Larne route that Inga-Maria took in April 1988 has since been replaced by the Cairnryan-Larne crossing, the railway station at Larne Harbour is fortunately still accessible and appears pretty much identical to how it was in 1988, its station signs (see photo directly below) having been upgraded being the only obvious evidence I could find of time’s inexorable march onwards.
There was no one on the railway station platform when my contact and I arrived, and no one in the entire ferry terminal building other than one staff member silently manning the front desk, adding to the eeriness of the experience. More eerie still was the knowledge that this nondescript-looking building, which I would imagine locals might take for granted to a certain if understandable extent, or perhaps not award too much thought to anyway, plays a crucial part in such a disturbing and enduring mystery. It’s interesting how something, or somewhere, can appear on the surface to be so mundane and commonplace, and yet as the saying goes, “If walls could talk…” Standing in the main hall of the ferry terminal, wandering around the lonely railway platform and most of all peering down the corridor where the foot passengers passed through after disembarking the Galloway Princess on the night of April 6th 1988 provoked a strange and very emotional feeling. I rarely detect atmospheres anywhere but here I honestly felt an unmistakable sense of sadness hanging in the air, a palpable aura of loss, the echo of the endless ether.
Before we left the ferry port, I took one last look through the glass doors at the corridor that the foot passengers would have passed through on the night of April 6th 1988 (see pic directly below). All the while many questions strived for supremacy in my mind. Did she disembark from the ferry on foot just as she’d boarded (as a foot passenger) in Stranraer earlier that evening? In other words, was she abducted only after she’d already gotten off the ferry? Or did she leave not just the Port of Larne in a vehicle but the ferry itself in a vehicle, thereby accompanying someone willingly? Did she ever even get to set foot on Northern Irish soil once before being so wickedly whisked away? I had heard it is less than one minute’s walk from the ferry disembarkation point to the train station, a distance I had found hard to believe could be as short as that until I saw it with my own eyes.
The police are of the opinion that Inga-Maria never made it to the train station, a view I was recently advised may have been formulated as a result of security cameras in place that would have recorded her presence on the train platform were she to have been there. So, if she was abducted it had to have been either while on board the ferry, or during the extremely short distance from the ferry to the train station or, just perhaps, after exiting the terminal building via the front exit, although this would not have been in keeping with her plans to travel to Belfast that night with the use of her InterRail ticket. But if she was abducted, how could this have happened without any of the other passengers noticing anything untoward? And how could those responsible have smuggled her out of the building? Despite her youth she was a grown woman, as well as carrying no less than three bags in addition to her large backpack. Even more so given the extremely-fraught security situation in the North in 1988, arguably the zenith of the Troubles, it would have been immensely-difficult if not impossible not to have aroused suspicion and risked detection were the killers to have attempted performing such an audacious abduction in full view of some of the other 418 passengers besides Inga-Maria and the killers on board the Galloway Princess that night. In fact I find it very unlikely. I believe she most likely left the ferry voluntarily with at least one person.
Despite her not ever having been a hitchhiker (contrary to what various news outlets have repeatedly and irresponsibly misreported over the years), despite the belief among senior detectives that she had avoided taking lifts at any stage of her journey that Spring of 1988, and despite what some have contested that Inga-Maria was as she’s been described “worldly” enough not to have taken a lift that night, I would point to the numerous examples littered throughout the case of the notorious American serial sex killer Ted Bundy. The majority of the women (horrifyingly, a number ranging between 40 to over 100 women) he is suspected of having murdered left what they had been doing and accompanied him willingly despite never having met him before he approached them with an often preposterous story devised to deceive them. Several of these women were sunbathing when he approached them, and despite their being otherwise-engaged, and being barely even dressed, hardly a state in which you would imagine any woman being willing to help an unknown man carry his schoolbooks or help him lift his sailing boat to list two typical Bundy ruses, off they went, no questions asked. A charming appearance and/or a persuasive viewpoint being unfortunately often all it takes in such instances. I have been informed that the ferry from Stranraer to Larne in 1988 would have taken longer than such a comparative journey nowadays, and in the words of inside sources, the ferry journey’s duration would have given one of the killers “plenty of time to work his charm”. Which is what I believe that individual may have done – with devastating consequences.
Chapter 29 – Town to Town
Having left the Port of Larne, I was taken on a drive around the surrounding area. Again, just as in the vicinity of the port terminal and railway platform there wasn’t a soul to be seen out, despite it being only early in the evening. I saw rows and rows of houses, street lights and otherwise darkness, allied to the vague void of an untold story, an unsettled score, an unresolved past clinging valiantly to the present, tearing at the truth to fight the silence. I could sense it, smell it, a certain tenseness, a very urban sort of restlessness. All in all, Larne is a fascinating place. I would have loved to have explored it in greater depth but time was in all too short a supply.
And so on we went from town to town, from the harbour to the hardcore. While talking about various aspects of the case the entire time. Driving at speed along winding country roads through a wall of thick fog, next up were the villages of Cloughmills and Loughguile in the heart of County Antrim’s rural splendour. By this point it was seriously eerie, knowing that as the police have formally stated, they are two of the three places (along with Armoy) where the answers to the case reside. That’s not just me saying that, having researched this case for ten months day-in, day-out – that’s the PSNI who, whatever you may think of them, have in their possession more pieces than anyone of the investigative jigsaw of this case.
One of the many things that saddens me about the case concerns something I’ve never heard mentioned before. Inga-Maria had come so far, and despite her youth and her total inexperience of travelling abroad alone, she’d almost made it. All the way throughout Germany, the Netherlands, England and Scotland she hadn’t put a foot wrong. Her travel plans had clearly been very well arranged and implemented. Each ferry and train connection across four countries had seemingly been made on time. Until she arrived in Northern Ireland it was plain sailing, no pun intended. And then, through no fault of her own, all of the triumphs she’d hitherto enjoyed en route were suddenly rendered irrelevant, her joyous journey brutally curtailed, her quest so darkly derailed. It’s one of the aspects of the case that bothers me. She was that close to making it. If she’d met almost anyone else in the country on board the ferry that night she probably would have been fine. But that one chance encounter, that one moment of utter lucklessness, of cruel fate or disastrous destiny, would cut her adrift from her teenage voyage and deny her the chance to write any more diary entries or paint or sketch any more artworks, or make an imprint on any more lives around her, or do any of the many other things she could have and likely would have gone on to do with her life.
One instance of succumbing to the fiendish scheming of a heartless charmer.
And that was it.
Taken and torn.
Dead and gone.
Forever lost to whatever lies beyond.
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
© Keeley Moss 2017
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Acknowledgements for Part 5
Special thanks to Inga Richardson for all her help and support with various aspects of my work on this case. Big thanks also to Jens, and to Marcus Baumann.
Thanks to William Marks for very kindly volunteering the aerial photo depicting Larne Harbour and the surrounding landscape in all its panoramic glory.
Thanks to R.J.M. for his kind assistance during my visit to a number of the key locations in the case.