A tribute to Inga-Maria Hauser, the definitive story of the only case of its kind in Northern Ireland and the continuing mission to uncover the truth behind a murder still unsolved after 29 years despite reportedly one of the largest DNA screenings in policing history
By Keeley Moss
Special Feature: 29th Year Anniversary – Live from Ballypatrick Forest
This is the hour when the mysteries emerge
A strangeness so hard to reflect
A moment so moving, goes straight to your heart
The vision has never been met
Attraction is held like a weight deep inside
Something I’ll never forget
‘Komakino’ – Joy Division
April 6th marked the 29th anniversary of Inga-Maria Hauser’s murder and her agonising ordeal that preceded it. April 20th marked the 29th anniversary of the discovery of her body, an event which revealed the abominable atrocity that the intervening years have done little to diminish the barbarity of. I first discovered the case in May 2016, missing the 28th anniversary by just a few weeks. From the time I first read about the case in depth, as I have explained in previous parts of The Keeley Chronicles, it had an effect on me like nothing else, and it wasn’t long before I felt compelled to embark on what would become this website (and my accompanying investigation which has proceeded in parallel alongside my writing about Inga-Maria and her case). As the twin anniversaries most associated with the case approached, I wondered how I might mark these milestones. What would be the most appropriate and fitting way to honour her passing – and to draw further attention to the continued evasion of justice by the killers over the course of what is now twenty-nine long years?
The closer it got to the anniversaries I realised that trying to pay my respects from my native city of Dublin was just not going to suffice. I was also aware that after my previous visit to Northern Ireland to see first-hand many of the locations that are central to the case (as covered in detail in Part 5) the only relevant places in Northern Ireland I had yet to visit were Armoy (which I plan to cover in a future post) and Ballypatrick Forest near Ballycastle in Co. Antrim. Soon enough it was no longer a case of “Will I go?” but a case of “How can I not go?”
My reasons for going were several-fold. First and foremost I wanted to pay my respects to the memory of this young woman who I never got to meet but who has posthumously become a huge ongoing part of my life. I also wanted to see for myself Ballypatrick Forest, for as anyone who has been following this blog and indeed this case over the years will be aware, it is the location where her body was found on the 20th of April 1988.
There were other reasons I felt compelled to go back up North, in fact further North than I had ever ventured before, indeed practically as far North as it is possible to go without falling into the sea. I wanted to explore Ballycastle, the seaside town that is nearest to the location where Inga-Maria’s body was found. I wanted to examine the layout of Ballypatrick Forest, this place that has haunted my thoughts and become mythologised in my mind. I felt it might enable me to have a better understanding of why the killers of this intelligent, talented and much-loved young woman chose that particular location on the night that saw their murderous urges reach the cruellest and most chilling crescendo possible. I wanted to walk the forest on foot, examining the terrain and exploring the expanse. I wanted to see how far from the main road the exit was, and indeed where the exit was in relation to the entrance. All of these things can of course be viewed on a map but there’s no substitute for direct physical contact. Would it just seem like any other forest? Or would the fact that something so dark and desperately-sad occurred there that has still not been resolved leave a palpable aura of mystery and misery hanging over the place? I wanted to find out. In addition I wanted to make my first visit to Ballycastle and Ballypatrick Forest the subject of Part 9 of this blog. I also wanted to take my own photos of these places and not have to rely on anyone else’s, and not to have to navigate any copyright clearance hurdles. For the record, and as always, none of the photos have been doctored or enhanced in any way.
Most importantly of all however I was hoping to seek a better means of applying more pressure on the authorities to renew their efforts to bring the case to a close at long last. Given that Inga-Maria’s mother’s birthday agonisingly falls on the anniversary of the discovery of her daughter’s body every year, and the fact that her mum is now an elderly woman, I feel all the more urgency to try with all my might to pull out all the stops. Individuals responsible for participating in taking the life of a young woman on her first trip alone away from home, who had her whole life stolen from her, whose family have been denied her presence all these years and have been denied justice for so long, cannot be allowed to – literally – continue to get away with murder.
These were the thoughts lurking behind the curtains of my mind as I prepared to make my way to the place commonly known where I’m from as “the North”. But the first of several surprises would greet me on the morning of my journey. That very morning, entirely unaware that I was Belfast-bound on my way to Ballycastle, Belfast 89FM just happened to get in touch to ask if I would appear on their Mid-Morning Show to discuss Inga-Maria’s case to coincide with the anniversary. It was the first time I appeared on air in Northern Ireland to discuss the case, and followed on from my first mainstream radio appearance in the South on The Tom Dunne Show on Newstalk FM two months before (see Part 7 of this blog to hear the sections of the latter interview that focus on the case).
When my friend Mags and I arrived in Ballycastle we headed straight towards Ballypatrick Forest, passing such renowned landmarks as Loughareema AKA ‘The Vanishing Lake’ en route. I wanted to remain resolutely focused on the task at hand but it was impossible not to feel emotional in light of the tragic events that stained the place all those years ago. If that was how it felt upon our approach to the place, I wondered how would it feel upon actually entering the forest park and even more so, how would it feel upon arriving at where she was found? For here was not just any forest, not just the haven of nature such green spaces generally are, but for all its undoubted scenery and serene splendour the location or at least one of the locations of one of the most appalling crimes ever to be inflicted upon a foreign national on Northern Irish soil. And on a more personal note, this was one of the most testing frontiers yet in my ever-widening trawl in search for answers in what has been for me a true labour-of-love, a spiritual journey steered by the compass of compassion and a year of many all-nighters spent rigorously re-writing tracts of text, perusing documents, checking facts and pursuing contacts. It’s been a year in which I have seen the abundant decency and humanity evident in the best of people – and a year in which I have by nature of the circumstances of this case been forced to confront and recount the horrors capable of being inflicted by the very worst.
It was early evening when we drove in through the entrance to the forest, and although it was a sunny evening it was very cold and windy, as it so often seems to be anywhere on the island of Ireland. Not for nothing was the country originally named Hibernia, meaning “Land of Winter”. How best to proceed from here I wondered? The main pathway was off-limits to cars and from studying maps I could tell that Ballypatrick Forest is a big place. I also wanted to buy flowers to leave at the spot where Inga-Maria’s body was found, so after taking a number of photographs near the entrance for the purpose of including them in this post, we headed back to Ballycastle intending to return to the forest the following afternoon, when we would have more daylight on our side in order to explore the forest to the extent that it warranted.
Today I went that way
Past empty browns and greys
The coldness chilled my face
The stillness filled the space
‘A Glade Somewhere’ – Forest
After spending the evening in Ballycastle, we returned to the forest as planned the next day with the flowers I had bought in the town on our way. We parked the car upon our discovery that with it being harvesting season, all entrances to the forest had now been restricted to motor vehicles, not just the main entrance as had been the case the evening before. After consulting a map we decided on entering via the exit route, as we felt we would reach our intended destination far quicker. And with that we were off on foot. I had expected Ballypatrick Forest would be a large place – I was wrong. It’s huge. And I mean absolutely vast. Bigger than Knebworth. And that’s big.
We headed towards the western part of the forest as I knew that that was where Inga-Maria’s body had been left, seemingly quite deliberately at the furthest point from all entrances. And so we walked. And walked. And walked. For miles. And miles. On the way we encountered more sheep than people. In fact during the entire day spent in the forest, on what was a dry Spring day, my friend and I curiously only ever encountered two people, both of whom were together walking their dog. The total sheep count by contrast was six.
Ballypatrick Forest is a singularly-beautiful place. But one with a singularly-harrowing past and a brutal truth that still lies locked within its tree-lined confines. The entire time we walked I was conscious that over this very same ground, the killers had driven on the night of the murder. How strange that felt, how eerie and utterly frustrating to know that had I been here exactly 29 years before, I could have seen them, could have tried to do something, could at the very least have clocked their car as it menacingly moved through a Northern night clothed by the cloak of the dark. Except I have to remind myself that in reality, even if I had have been there, there would surely have been nothing I could have done, being only a child at the time. At best I could have noted the make and model of the car and perhaps a portion of the registration plate. But I might as well have been half a world away, as like anyone else reading this now I couldn’t have known anything of the events about to transpire that would many years later enact such a quizzical grip on my psyche. The fact that I know there’s probably nothing I could’ve done at the time doesn’t lessen the lingering impact of impotent guilt nagging away at me. Ultimately that guilt is no bad thing, for such restless regrets form a function as the fuel that compels me to do whatever I can to try make some kind of difference now. But still it bothers me that for roughly an hour I was on the same island at the same time as she was, and I knew nothing to be able to do anything to prevent what happened.
Beauty finds refuge in herself
Lovers wrapped inside each other’s lies
You exist within her shadow
‘She Is Suffering’ – Manic Street Preachers
All this and more was clattering the tracks of my thoughts as we wound our way through the forest. It took us three and a half hours on foot walking from the closest entrance to reach the place where Inga-Maria’s body was left on that night in April 1988. That’s how enormous the place is. And how far the killers drove into it (in pitch darkness, remember) to wreak their wretched wrongs.
I find it increasingly difficult to process and come to terms with, even in a blog devoted to her and to the investigation into trying to track her killers. The closer I’ve become to the subject the harder it is becoming for me to comprehend what occurred that night. The level of violence used by the killers against someone who was not only a vulnerable young woman but was someone they didn’t even know is even to me, someone who has read and studied true crime cases since I was ten years old, quite shocking. I cannot get my head around the phenomenal viciousness involved in her murder. What they did to her you wouldn’t do to your worst enemy. Could having lived through two decades of the Troubles by that point really have had that much of an effect on their capacity to destroy a totally-innocent human being and seemingly not feel even a slither of guilt afterwards? Or were they that sociopathic to begin with? I suspect the latter, although with perhaps a trace of the former.
Given how difficult I find it to come to terms with what happened to her, can you imagine how her Mum and Dad felt? Their baby, not just attacked but destroyed. What had she done? Apparently, merely accepted the offer of a lift. The perpetrators remain free to live their lives, never having had to spend a moment atoning for this atrocity. How must it have felt for Inga-Maria’s Dad to have to fly into Northern Ireland to identify his baby’s body, seeing her in the morgue like that, having last seen her so full of life as she set off on her Interrailing adventure, him going through the torment of that trauma…and then never receive any answers for the rest of his life. No one ever charged let alone convicted. Hour after hour. Day after day. Night after night. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Decade after decade. All the while there have been three life sentences served in this case – Inga-Maria’s Mum, Dad and Sister. Full-term. No remission. No time off for good behaviour. A constant hammering in their heads, a caustic gnawing at their hearts. And all the while a small group of people in those rural communities who the PSNI have gone on record as revealing have for all these years been protecting the killers, have had in their possession the crucial pieces of the puzzle, compliant in their silence, blood on their hands for as long as their mouths are muzzled.
Why do anything when you can forget everything?
‘This Is Yesterday’ – Manic Street Preachers
Finally, three and a half hours after entering on foot via the exit (which was actually the closest entry point from which the relevant part of the forest park could be accessed) we reached a point at which the walking trail led off on one side to a dirt track that would be very easy to overlook, appearing nondescript and overgrown and with a sort of gate in front of it. Armed with a map and with photos of the crime scene as it looked from various angles in April 1988, I would be able to assess whether this was indeed the place where this young woman’s body had been left. It was a particularly innocuous-looking path, with nothing to indicate its shocking and painful past, but I was pretty sure that here at last, we’d found it. After only a minute or so of walking up the path, we were there.
Having been to the crime scene one thing that was and is now abundantly clear to me is that the geographical profilers and behavioural profilers enlisted by the PSNI could not be wrong about one key belief that may yet prove crucial in this case: the killers of Inga-Maria Hauser had very intimate knowledge of Ballypatrick Forest. There is not an iota of doubt in my mind that the detective anonymously quoted who said at least one of the killers “knew the forest like the back of his hand” could be wrong. Let me emphasise – it takes three and a half hours on foot (and that’s with no breaks or stops en route) to reach the crime scene from the nearest entry point. Even in a vehicle that’s a long distance. And in a vehicle at night, with no lights for miles around but the paltry glow of one car’s headlights? On at times very narrow and extremely-winding routes throughout? It would be hard enough to drive during daylight to the particular part of the forest availed of to dump her body. It would however be simply impossible for anyone to access that sort of terrain under the cover of near-total darkness without an amazing level of familiarity of that forest. And now having walked it, having witnessed it, that much to me is absolutely undeniable. This was no random killer with no connections to the area. Rather these were individuals who knew the location as only those most familiar with it could.
I felt an overriding wave of sadness and of helplessness, being here all these years after the fact. I was still holding the flowers that I’d carried with me from where I’d bought them hours before in Ballycastle. I looked at them resting in my arms. They were pretty, they were nice but what good would they do? In that moment I felt hamstrung by helplessness. Flowers, these pretty trinkets of conscience and compassion, are no match for the haughty finality of death. And the most meagre compensation possible for all the suffering she endured and the subsequent smothering of truth and justice that her family have had to bear witness to over the following twenty-nine years.
But flowers and a promise were all I had to offer on this day in the forest. So I placed them on the grassy bank and stood there soaked in sorrow as the day gave way to dusk. But within me that familiar desire to fight the silence and defy destruction with creation was brewing. And so I left Ballypatrick Forest Park that day not disillusioned by the zipped-up lips and muzzled mouths that keep Inga-Maria’s case frozen in cold storage, but rather encouraged by them. You’re going to remain silent and continue shielding the rapist and murderers of an innocent teenage girl who was one thousand miles from home on her own for the first time, and who had only come to the province to do some sightseeing and was willing to give Northern Ireland a chance during the height of the Troubles? Well I’m going to keep telling the world who she was and what was done to her. 20,000 readers of The Keeley Chronicles want justice. The good people of North Antrim want justice. The good people of Ballycastle who have had their beautiful area tarnished as a result of the killers using their local forest as killing fields want justice. The Hauser family needs justice. I won’t stop. John Dallat MLA won’t stop. People in 67 different countries around the world now read this blog. This is the internet equivalent of a protest march, gathering and growing, expanding and enlarging with every blog I post.
Armoy, Cloughmills and Loughgiel – the world is watching.
Give up the fucking ghost.
Inga-Maria Hauser. Born May 28th 1969. Died April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
As always, please get in touch with me via email in the ‘Contact’ section if you have any information in relation to this case.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2017. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 9
Very special thanks to Mags McCaw
Thanks to the people of Ballycastle and the continued support of the following social media groups:
Things We Would Like To See In Ballycastle
Moving Forward in Northern Ireland
Unsolved Murder Cold Cases In Ireland
‘Komakino’ written by Curtis/Sumner/Hook/Morris. Published by Fractured Music ©1980
‘A Glade Somewhere’ written by Welham/Allenby/Welham. Published by Arf Arf Music ©1969
‘This Is Yesterday’ & ‘She Is Suffering’ written by Bradfield/Moore/Wire/James. Published by Sony Music Publishing ©1994