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 30 – CONTENTS Chapter 79: The Other Side of Midnight Chapter 80: Stranraer Till I Die Chapter 81: Drawn to the Deep End Acknowledgements for Part 30
Chapter 79: The Other Side of Midnight
A dual of personalities
That stretch all true realities
Joy Division – ‘Dead Souls’
In Part 28 I discussed the very eerie experience of arriving as the only person on the last train to Stranraer in the small hours of the morning while retracing Inga’s movements over the course of four days travelling through the UK and Ireland. It was probably one of the darkest instalments of this blog – and that’s saying something considering the murkiness of much of the terrain traversed over the course of the three-and-a-half-year lifespan of The Keeley Chronicles. However, much like the astrological sign I share with Inga (Gemini), a sign renowned for its “dual of personalities” to quote Joy Division, I would discover there is another side to Stranraer. The other side of midnight being daylight, I resolved to return to the same train station first thing the following morning.
The station like the town has an altogether different ambience in daylight, courageously clinging to its charms in the face of the economic hardship thrust upon it by the transfer of all its shipping to the nearby port of Cairnryan nine miles up the road. As a result the station is being manned on only a part-time basis and is nowadays seeing just a fraction of the passenger numbers it once had, with most rail passengers instead availing of a feeder bus that meets the train in Ayr to take them on to Cairnryan therefore bypassing Stranraer altogether.
Still it felt amazing to be here, in Stranraer and more to the point on the very railway platform Inga actually stood on as she prepared to make her way to the ferry terminal on that fateful evening. From my research I had learned that the station had last been refurbished back in 1987, so I knew that I was seeing it virtually identically to how Inga saw it in 1988. While standing on the platform I pictured the scene in my mind’s eye…The arrival of the train from Ayr with its ensuing flood of foot passengers pouring onto the platform moments after, a bustle of people in motion, a busy blur of suitcases and bags.
And one rucksack in particular.
Chapter 80: Stranraer Till I Die
Go all the way
You knew you could
So far, so good
“Who do you think you are? How come you came this far?”
Shrugged him off and locked the door
Now it almost seems impossible
We’ve found ourselves back where we started from
Pet Shop Boys – ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’
Suddenly I snap out of the vortex of my thoughts. That was then. This is now. Dragging my mind back to the present, I walk further along the platform until I reach a sign that states, “Strictly no admission beyond this point unless authorised. Monitored by Harbour Police on CCTV 24/7. Trespassers will be prosecuted”. I walk right past it, and into the space that lies just beyond the end of the railway line. To the left-hand side it leads out into the harbour at the very edge where the Galloway Princess used to dock. To the right-hand side there appeared to be some sort of railway shed. I decide to take a closer look. It isn’t every day I find myself in Stranraer so the no-trespassing signs vowing swift judicial retribution were not going to be much of a deterrent. I was on a spiritual mission and nothing so earthbound was going to deter me.
Walking behind the buffers at the end of the train tracks I have a clear view of the platform from a different perspective. Taking a few more steps to the right I proceed along a path that leads to the railway shed. It appears to be a place where few people have been, something which piqued my curiosity further still. But someone had certainly been here, someone equally as unauthorised as me. For there in large spray-painted words on the far wall of the shed was a statement of intent:
STRANRAER TILL I DIE!
My first thought was that the phrase seemed to signify something beyond its original intention. I perceived it as a badge of pride, a symbolic motto of sorts. I felt it echoed Inga’s defiance as she put up the incredible struggle against her killers on the other side of the water several hours after she’d stepped onto the platform of this very station, only yards away from this graffiti. It seemed to convey a deeper meaning, a call to arms and a battle cry for braving all terrains amid the dark days and nights to come. And come they would, if previous history was any indicator.
I turned to face an even odder and more eerie sight. On the wall directly beside the “Stranraer till I die!” graffiti, someone had spray-painted “30 F”. 30 – of all numbers. I was standing here at Stranraer station exactly 30 years on from Inga’s murder. ‘F’ of course could stand for any number of words in relation to the case…Female and funeral to name but two. It may have been nothing but a coincidence but still it was a little curious.
I made my way back to the other side of the station area, still behind the forbidding sign, and exited out onto the side of the harbour where the Galloway Princess used to dock. Fittingly by this point the bright morning that seemed to radiate hope in the skies had made way for the ruins of an inclement afternoon. Wind and rain were beginning to wreak havoc on the harbour as a crowd of clouds cluttered the ether. I glared at the sky, and at whatever or whoever supposedly lurks behind, in a doomed pursuit to wrestle from its grasp the answers to the question of exactly what had happened in those vital droplets of time, of precisely what specific words were said to cause Inga to so suddenly and willingly deviate from her intention to catch the train to Belfast, and instead unwittingly take a night-time drive towards deathly oblivion. But neither sea nor sky were being any more forthcoming than our friends in the north.
Chapter 81: Drawn to the Deep End
You can feel every pulse of your blood
Reminding you the days slip on by
Gene – ‘Drawn to the Deep End’
Walking back towards the station building I step inside for the first time, a welcome respite from the wind and rain temporarily laying siege. It takes a while to absorb the atmosphere of the place – standing here is intense, for after all this is the interior of the last railway station Inga was ever at. It’s a very small building, and fairly nondescript – there’s are only two rooms in it, one is a small waiting room and the other is an area with a kiosk, behind which are two ScotRail staff members waiting to sell tickets and answer queries – if there was anyone to buy a ticket, that is. The closure of the ferry terminal and the moving of all shipping to Cairnryan has clearly ripped the heart out of this town. It’s a crying shame really, and most of all because it means that one of the last places Inga graced with her presence, and somewhere obviously significant in relation to her last movements – Stranraer ferry terminal – has been reduced to little more than a pile of rubble in a wide open space. It is very frustrating and saddening that the building was demolished, that it’s historical significance where Inga is concerned was overlooked in favour of short-term financial gain as usual. I wonder if the people who make these decisions ever think of anything other than money, or does the lure of the lucre so dominate their train of thought that they can only think in terms of whatever and whoever can be sold and bought? I think we know the answer to that.
I end up spending hours at the station and in all that time only a couple of people enter the place to wait in the waiting room for a train. While there I also conduct an impromptu interview for my book with a member of ScotRail staff. At the close of the interview she informs me the station is about to close for the remainder of the afternoon, so I thank her for her time and head back outside. The wind and rain is raging now, and I smile ruefully as I realise I’m getting a taste of the notorious Scottish weather, in stark contrast to the beautiful clear blue sky and sun that greeted me upon my arrival at the station in the morning. I walk down along the platform with its corrugated roof overhead, with every step conscious that Inga once walked on this very platform, completely oblivious to the horror in store for her just a couple of hours later. Turning to my right I see discarded on the ground a poignant reminder of Stranraer’s bygone maritime heyday, an ancient-looking lifebuoy with faded red-and-white stripes that bears the legend “Stranraer Harbour”. It looks so old I can well imagine it having been here in 1988, or possibly even earlier.
After exiting the platform I’m confronted by a furious gust blowing in off the Irish Sea. Before leaving the station area altogether I decide to turn around and take one last look. As I do, I realise that from the position I’m standing in I happen to have a clear view of not just the station and the train tracks that had taken Inga to the station, but in my direct line of sight I can simultaneously see the now-vacant site of the old ferry terminal building she had entered, and also the dock from where the Galloway Princess had set sail from that night. I’m momentarily floored. I had already seen and been to all of these places separately but suddenly and unexpectedly seeing all of them simultaneously as I now can from the position I’m facing them from causes some sort of sensory overload. For in that moment I could see before me all four parts of the chain that had effectively delivered Inga right into harm’s way – the railway line, the train station, the site of the ferry terminal and the section of the harbour where she had boarded the ferry.
I had thought nothing could eclipse the frustration I felt standing in Larne ferry terminal for the first time (in November 2016, see Part 5) with the futile wisdom of hindsight, the intense frustration and sadness of knowing exactly what I could say and do to change the course of history and Inga’s life if it weren’t for the fact that it’s obviously impossible to go back in time and intervene. Despite the head knowing that, it still doesn’t stop the heart from wishing that it could be otherwise and from somehow trying to will it into being. So it was a surprise to be at Stranraer Harbour for the first time and feel an even greater degree of frustration than I had at Larne. For here was the place, more than any other, arguably more so than even at Larne, where a different outcome could have been possible, had it been possible for Inga to have been made aware of the grave danger she would imminently face that evening.
It was too much at once. I broke down and wept more than at Oxford train station and The Roman Baths put together. Hindsight had never seemed more helpless, more hopeless. I was at a vantage point to view four places simultaneously where at any one of them I would have been in a position to save her. I had all the facts, or most of them anyway, at my disposal. And none of it was of any fucking use. I had everything but time itself. And that was the one thing without which it would be impossible. Impossible to turn back the clock thirty seconds let alone thirty years.
And yet still I can’t stop trying. The head knows one thing but the heart strives for another. But the heart will always overrule the head. After all, that’s what prompted Inga to come all the way here in the first place. Her heart made a decisive push in the Spring of 1988 to leave Germany and travel to England, then Scotland, then Northern Ireland. And the Republic of Ireland and Wales too if only she had been allowed to continue her journey on towards Dublin and Cardiff respectively. Inga was the only one of her schoolmates to spend the mid-term break of 1988 exploring outside of familiar confines. She had higher sights, drawn to the deep end in search of new frontiers. Never behind. Always beyond.
In that sense, at least one thing remains unchanged since 1988. Inga was a step ahead then, and I like to think she’s a step ahead now, one step beyond this mortal portal on the other side of this life.
TO BE CONTINUED
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2019. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 30
Dead Souls written by Joy Division. Published by Fractured Music ©1979
It Couldn’t Happen Here written by Tennant/Lowe/Morricone. Published by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. ©1987
Drawn to the Deep End written by James/Mason/Miles/Rossiter. Published by Chrysalis Music ©1997