The definitive account of the only case of its kind, a search for truth and a labour-of-love in memory of the victim of a unique murder mystery still officially unsolved 33 years on
By Keeley Moss
Part 25 – CONTENTS
Chapter 68: Morning Has Broken In Scotland
Chapter 69: Breakfast In Inverness
Chapter 70: All Those Days You’re Not Around
Acknowledgements for Part 25
Chapter 68: Morning Has Broken in Scotland
Morning has broken in Scotland
Inga Maria Hauser, postcard, April 6th 1988
For anyone who hasn’t been following the previous four 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 keep her memory alive by trying to complete the journey that she was so tragically murdered in the process of undertaking. I am also doing this in order to show just how far she travelled and the sheer effort she made to get where she was going before she was killed, a very important aspect of Inga’s legacy that was overlooked for too long. She came so far. So near and yet, so far…
Suddenly after around fifteen minutes the ‘Caledonian Sleeper’ stops sleeping and begins to pull out from Preston station. I had climbed back on board just in time and had not long shut the door behind me when it began moving again. During the fifteen minutes that the train was silently sitting stationary, no one had gotten on or off. The entire time there was absolutely no one on the platform save for my brief excursion. The dense fog, the eerie silence, the fact that it is the middle of the night and most of all the knowledge Inga had stood here and boarded the same sleeper train all those years before on the way to her terrible fate contributed to a weird atmosphere I had never experienced before and that I did not expect to experience again. I was not to know it then, but the next two nights would prove that assumption to be very much mistaken.
I return to the carriage and to my still-sleeping fellow passengers, amazed that not one of them has stirred since leaving Euston, not even during the stopover in Preston, all the more so considering there are no berths in the carriage and nowhere comfortable to rest. I can’t sleep – but they apparently can’t wake up. The train soon picks up speed and before long passes through Carlisle. Not long after the light of a new dawn arrives in the sky appropriately heralding the train’s arrival north of the border.
“Morning has broken in Scotland” were the opening words of a postcard Inga wrote to three of her schoolfriends in Munich on the morning she arrived in Inverness. Morning was again breaking in Scotland and now here I was on the same train route, heading towards the same remote outpost in the Scottish Highlands and searching for something difficult to define. I didn’t know if I would find it. If I found it would I recognise it for what it was? I wasn’t sure. But merely searching for it felt like enough. It made me feel closer. Closer to my goal. Closer to the spirit of her soul.
After Carlisle the train gradually edges higher into the highlands, proceeding through the very same stations she had passed through on the morning of April 6th 1988…Edinburgh, Stirling, Dunblane, Gleneagles, Perth, Dunkeld & Birnam, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Newtonmore, Kingussie, Aviemore and Carrbridge. Unlike on the train Inga had travelled on, no breakfast car is added in Perth to the train I was on, due to that increasingly familiar refrain “staff shortages”. Surely, they could find someone to rustle up a bowl of corn flakes or a croissant? Alas not. So, the breakfast that I had anticipated munching on while savouring those “dawn views of the Grampians during the slow pull over Drumochter Pass” that had been mentioned in the Interrail guide would not be possible. So be it. It looked like it was going to be another miserably wet day, but I didn’t mind. Watching from the window my heart is lifted by the sight of the Highlands. I had only been to Scotland for the first time three weeks previously and had never been to the Highlands before. I would learn they’re not called the Highlands for nothing by the time another three hours passes. I silently sit in my seat and watch as a sky’s worth of rain gushes from above. I had finally managed to charge my phone at Waverley station during a short stop in Edinburgh so for now I can at least tell what time it is. Suddenly an overhead screen at the top of the train communicates the news that the next stop will be the last one – Inverness.
Chapter 69: Breakfast in Inverness
Breakfast in Inverness. Nice town.
Inga Maria Hauser, postcard, April 6th 1988
Inverness is the largest city and cultural capital of the Highlands of Scotland, a truly remote part of the British Isles. I knew in advance that it was going to take twelve hours on a train to reach there from London. And I knew that in order to fulfil what was a crucial stage of this spiritual mission, and to follow Inga’s footsteps to the letter, I would only get to spend little more than a couple of hours there before having to board a train to Glasgow in order to make it to Stranraer the same night. Suddenly the train pulls into Inverness and I step onto the platform, blinking into the light of a new-born morning. The words she wrote ringing in my ears – “I have just arrived in Inverness…”
I was aware then just how far Inga had come on the last day of her life. The other passengers who disembarked from the train at the same time as I did all immediately made their way to the exit. But I just stood there, soaking up the moment. I would have only two hours and forty-five minutes in Inverness before having to board the train to Glasgow. Inga had had even less time the morning she was here, and yet she had accomplished so much during a very short window of time. That morning in Inverness she had no idea just how little time she had left in this life.
I stand on the platform and visualised her stepping off the train here. Inverness. The highpoint of the Highlands. Leonard Cohen once wrote the words, “Came so far for beauty”. Inga came all the way here to see the beauty of rural Scotland, unaware that Scotland briefly saw her own beauty that day, for what would be the first and only time.
Leaving the platform, I make my way through the barriers and towards the exit. The same mixed feelings descend once again. I feel excited to be here. But at the same time, I sense a heavy shadow. Walking out into the sleet-spattered streets of Inverness, suddenly I see it before me – the bank where Inga cashed £20 worth of Traveller’s Cheques. I cross the road and step inside. It’s a bank, much like any other. Then again, it’s not. I can tell by looking at the faces of those working here and those in the queue waiting to be served that none of them are thinking about Inga-Maria Hauser. I stand in the bank visualising her on that morning in 1988 in the queue with her rucksack and bag, visualising her approaching the counter and asking the bank clerk to cash her Traveller’s Cheques. The £20 she received that day in Scottish Sterling would be the last money she would ever handle, and an undisclosed amount of the money that remained from that £20 note would be found scattered among the trees in Ballypatrick Forest near to her body when her remains were discovered fourteen days later.
Chapter 70: All Those Days You’re Not Around
Raintown, rain down
On all those days you’re not around
Deacon Blue – ‘Raintown’
I leave the bank and wander down Academy Street, looking to take shelter from the rain. Soon I find myself at the entrance to some kind of market arcade. Victorian Market, it is called. I need to buy postcards and this looks like the kind of place where I’ll find some. Entering the first shop I see inside the building I speak with a Scottish lady behind the counter, telling her I’m Irish and have just arrived in Inverness for the first time. After buying several postcards I take a wander around the Victorian Market. This age-old place has a timeless quality and is I learn one of the stand-out places for tourists visiting Inverness. In the light of that, just like at The Roman Baths in Bath, it is very likely Inga was here. The number of quaint curios throughout and the artisan atmosphere in the air would have stirred her senses I’m sure. I know that she bought postcards in Inverness, and I wonder if perhaps she bought them at the Victorian Market. Walking around the market I feel that familiar feeling rise. An inescapable sense of sorrow and wasted potential on behalf of this person I never knew, never met but who I feel a closer bond with than anyone I’ve ever known.
I look for a café to have breakfast in but find nothing suitable in the Victorian Market. Then I’m told about an award-winning café nearby, so I head off in search of that. On my way I take a detour to the post office to buy stamps. The rain is falling heavier now. Then I remember Loch Ness. If you’re going to come all the way to Inverness you might as well try to catch a glimpse of the fabled Loch Ness Monster, however unlikely it is that the infamous sea creature would actually be visible. As I’m crossing the street, I spot a taxi driver who has stopped at traffic lights and ask him how much he would charge to take me to Loch Ness. “Forty-five pounds”, he replies in a distinctly Scotch burr. It’s a lot of money to spend to go see an almost certainly non-existent sea monster. In another of the strange parallels with Inga’s predicament that will become even more apparent over the next couple of days, while in Inverness I first become aware that I’m running low on funds. Strangely while in the very same place on the morning of April 6th 1988 Inga wrote in her diary, “Unfortunately my money is slowly running out”. Now here I was in the same obscure place only to find the same thing happening to me. As a result, I won’t be able to afford the taxi trip to see – or more than likely not see – the Loch Ness monster. Nae bother.
I resume walking to the café where once inside it’s a relief to be out of the rain. Finding the last unoccupied table, I sit down and upon the arrival of the friendly Scottish waitress I order breakfast. Again, Inga’s written words are ringing in my head. Breakfast in Inverness. Nice town.
And indeed, it’s a nice breakfast. Simultaneously while having breakfast I hurriedly write my postcards, conscious as I am of how quickly time is passing. Suddenly I realise I somehow only have fifteen minutes left before I have to catch my train to Glasgow. I write my last postcard and stick stamps on all of them, then approach the counter to pay the bill that has come to £9.50. They don’t accept laser card payments though and I have almost no cash on me. I realise I have no option but to run to the bank to withdraw £10 from what little money there is left in my account. I throw my rucksack over my shoulders and dash off back out into the rain. At this stage I have only a few minutes to get to the bank, withdraw money, run back to the café, pay my bill there then get to the post office to post my postcards and get back to the train station in time to catch what is the last train out of here in time to make the last transport connection to Stranraer by tonight. I’m already cutting it very fine as it is without taking into account the detour to the post office but I’m determined to continue to honour the spirit of Inga’s day here and post my cards from Inverness rather than waiting until I’m in Glasgow to do so. I was going to do it right, or not at all. That said, I’m seriously under pressure now. The train is set to depart any minute now and if I get stranded here, well that’s it. Not only do I have nowhere to stay in Inverness and I don’t know anybody here but the whole point of my coming here in the first place was to try honour the spirit of her journey by following her movements to the letter. I need to establish (and experience) exactly how possible it was for her to get from Preston to Inverness to Glasgow to Ayr to Stranraer in the same day. So staying in Inverness for a night is not an option, doing that would screw everything up. Besides I couldn’t afford it.
I arrive breathlessly at the bank and launch myself at the ATM machine like a praying mantis. Attempting to withdraw £10, suddenly a message appears on the screen that warns:
£20 NOTES ONLY – NO OTHER DENOMINATIONS AVAILABLE
£20 – the same amount Inga received from the same bank in the same city. What is going on here? I push the button, grab the money out of the dispenser and run back to the café as fast as my legs will carry me where I pay my bill before making my stubborn/crazy detour to the post office where I post my six postcards and then scurry off again this time in the direction of the train station. I make it onto the platform with literally seconds to spare. At this point the rain stops for the first time all day, the grey gloom lifts and suddenly from out of nowhere there appears a beautiful sun-split skyline as the train begins to pull out from Inverness station.
The timing is as perfect as it is poignant. For just as I’m about to leave Inverness and continue the spiritual mission of retracing the footsteps of someone who on the last day of her life, on what would be the only day she would ever get to spend in Scotland, would write in her diary, “Scotland is beautiful”, here, just in the nick of time was confirmation of those words she had written some thirty years earlier.
TO BE CONTINUED
Inga Maria Hauser
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2019. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 25
Raintown written by Ricky Ross. Published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group ©1987