The definitive account of the only case of its kind in Northern Ireland, the ongoing campaign for justice and a tribute to the victim of a tragedy still unsolved after 31 years
By Keeley Moss
Special Feature: UTV Live (2002 Broadcast)
As I alluded to in Part 1 of this blog, there have as of 2017 been comparatively few examples of Inga-Maria’s case being featured on TV. For instance, despite extensive searches online I have only ever come across a single TV clip that is available, an RTE1 news item dating from 2009 (that is a mere twenty-five seconds duration). However, after a few more days spent searching I came across records pertaining to a visual library belonging to an amazing man named Peter Heathwood whose remarkable life story is worthy of a blog post in itself. Peter’s visual library consists of three decades worth of news broadcasts relating to the Troubles that he has been dutifully recording and preserving as part of a personal archive including most of the major British and Irish documentaries, history programmes and current affairs programmes about Northern Ireland networked between 1981 and November 2008 together with a few documentaries broadcast between 1969 and 1980, and also some independent videos during the same period.
Buried deep within thirty years worth of records that Peter has used to log each programme he has taped I discovered a reference to an episode of UTV Live from April 16th 2002 that features a short piece on the investigation into Inga-Maria’s unsolved murder. After getting in touch with Peter he very kindly sent me a DVD featuring the clip and I edited it so it focuses only on the segment involving Inga-Maria’s case. The news clip also features an interview with Detective Inspector Sam Harkness, who in 2002 was the detective in charge of the investigation into Inga-Maria’s murder, and footage of scientists poring over DNA samples.
The newscaster presenting this clip (Kate Smith) is a lady who would be a very familiar face to anyone who like myself has seen many’s an episode of UTV Live over the years, and seeing her referring to Inga-Maria by name I found strangely unsettling. It’s hard to explain but having lived with this case intensely for almost a year now, without having heard Inga-Maria’s name mentioned in full by anyone during that time, it was weird to hear it being intoned in that matter-of-fact style so typical of newscasters, especially from someone whose voice is so synonymous with that of ‘a TV person’ if you know what I mean. It seemed to make the terribly tragic facts of Inga-Maria’s horrific murder all the more real, but an even more poignant moment was to come…For this clip shows the crime scene in Ballypatrick Forest Park on the night of Wednesday April 20th and on the morning of Thursday April 21st 1988. Although it is visible for only a few seconds at a time, and might appear to the naked eye to be fairly nondescript segments of footage, to me it’s extraordinary and very moving to actually see the scene in real-time as it looked when her body was discovered on that long-ago Spring evening in 1988.
An important point to bear in mind while watching this clip however is that at the time it was aired in 2002, the PSNI was still labouring under the impression that Inga-Maria had died only a few days or hours before her body was discovered on the night of April 20th 1988 – meaning that with her having arrived in Larne on April 6th 1988 it was believed for sixteen years that she may have been been held captive somewhere in the province for as long as fourteen days before being murdered, a thought that understandably greatly troubled Inga-Maria’s family for many years. However this belief, a result of the time of death that had been suggested in the original pathologist’s report from 1988, was a timeline which by the mid-2000’s had been debunked entirely. That the initial estimated time of death was later found to have been incorrect by as long as fourteen days had unfortunate consequences for the RUC and later the PSNI, whose investigations were rendered considerably more complicated as a result. I would recommend that anyone interested in the full details of how and why that crucial revision came about check out Part 3 of this blog.
But back to this part of the story…In the otherwise-unavailable news clip I have posted below in addition to seeing the crime scene as it was on the night Inga-Maria’s body was discovered you will see and hear Detective Inspector Sam Harkness ask for people in the community to cast their minds back to try focus on any individuals who may have been behaving strangely or been uncustomarily absent during a two-week period from April 6th-20th 1988. Knowing what we know now, that would not have been the case, and all the scientific and other evidence points to Inga-Maria having lost her life on the night of April 6th. That said, I believe the release of this newly-unearthed item is an important addition to the canon where this case is concerned.
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
© Keeley Moss 2017
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Acknowledgement for Part 6
Heartfelt thanks to Peter Heathwood.