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 32 – CONTENTS
Chapter 84: Troubled Waters
Chapter 85: Heavy Storms
Acknowledgements for Part 32
Chapter 84: Troubled Waters
Every night I circle like the moon
It’s an act of simple devotion
But it can take forever when you’ve got something to prove
Crowded House – ‘Locked Out’
For anyone who hasn’t been following the previous eleven 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…
Although I suspected that the next couple of hours would probably be intense from an emotional standpoint, I fully expected to find the ferry crossing itself a straightforward, benign modern-day travelling experience. I was here to retrace Inga’s steps but I genuinely did not expect any sort of danger whatsoever. After all, I live in a capital city and I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been on trains, boats and planes on my own countless times. I was hardly going to have a hard time on a ferry.
I was wrong.
By contrast I was shocked at what I encountered. I have never experienced such a sexually-charged and intimidatingly macho environment anywhere.
After making my way up the stairs and onto the passenger deck I instinctively gravitated towards the most brightly-lit and open-plan area of the passenger deck, which is the cafeteria. The cafeteria led directly to the ferry’s bar and lounge which my instinct told me to avoid. Conscious of why I was here and that this was the same ferry crossing that had played a crucial role in sealing Inga’s fate, I reasoned that it would be best to spend the majority of the crossing seated alone, listening to music on my headphones and reducing the possibility of making myself in any way conspicuous. Despite the fact that there were only two other people seated in the cafeteria for the majority of the crossing, two males, and one of them had his back to me, the other of the two, a well-built older male, was staring straight at me. Neither of these men had been on the coach that brought myself and the other foot passengers from the ferry terminal, so I knew they had to be motorists. In fact their appearance bore all the hallmarks of lorry drivers.
I tried to lose myself in the music I was listening to on headphones. I’d had ‘Mad at You’ by Joe Jackson on heavy rotation all day, a six-minute-long post-punk song that crackles with a relentless intensity. Still, my curiosity was such that I could not resist looking up every now and again. Each time I raised my head, expecting to see him looking elsewhere this time, instead his eyes remained firmly fixed on me. Eventually this had happened too many times for it to be a coincidence, or merely a case of my being paranoid, and I tried to find a way to diminish his interest. Realising that before leaving Stranraer I had put my hair up in pigtails in order to remedy my hair being out of shape due to having spent much of the day in high winds, I decided to take the pigtails out of my hair, belatedly guessing that perhaps this was what had drawn his eyes to me, and hoping that this interest would now cease. But still he persisted looking at me like he was about to enjoy a large steak. This went on…FOR AN HOUR.
Now, you may think in the cold light of day “Why didn’t you confront him and ask him to stop staring?” Or wonder perhaps why did I not hit him with some withering one-liner? But it’s always easy to be wise after the event. At the time I was just too taken aback to react at all, the fact it had never really happened to me before stunted me from knowing how to react at all. Also, I was on my own and I just didn’t feel like confronting anyone, let alone this guy who, as the phrase goes, ‘Was built like a brick shithouse’.
Although I had partly decided to retrace Inga’s footsteps in order to try gain as much of an insight into her movements as possible, never had I expected that I might gain an insight into her predicament on board the ferry crossing to Larne. But in that moment it occurred to me that this was precisely what was happening. I suddenly found myself in quandaries I had never really experienced before. In Dublin I generally feel invisible, afforded the easy anonymity that is part and parcel of life in a capital city. I’m not used to being noticed, let alone watched. In the course of having to think quickly on my feet to deal with this, I found myself struck by the realisation that it is possible in the light of what happened to Inga that she may have found herself occupying a very similar mindset during her fateful last ferry crossing.
Chapter 85: Heavy Storms
All hands on deck at dawn
Sailing to sadder shores
Your port in my heavy storms
Harbours the blackest thoughts
Echo and the Bunnymen – ‘Ocean Rain’
Having sat motionless at the back of the cafeteria, and having been stared at the entire time by this guy seated halfway across the room with his travelling male companion, and with no sign of this situation changing, I wanted to get as far away from the cafeteria as possible. But how far could I go? I was stuck in the middle of the ocean, or the North Channel at any rate, with little room to roam. I was also faced with the issue of what to do with my backpack. Should I leave it in the seating area and run the risk of someone potentially tampering with it while I was gone? Or should I take it with me, and as a result impede my free movement? My thinking at this point was, what would be the point of going for a walk if I wasn’t going to be able to stretch my legs freely, having borne the weight of my rucksack almost constantly during the previous days of the backpacking trip. In that moment I had a blinding flash of clarity, as it struck me that Inga possibly grappled with such questions as she would have faced the same issues of what to do with her own rucksack when she prepared to explore the ferry (and it is a matter of record that Inga did indeed do that, thanks to the only two verified witness reports of Inga’s movements during the ferry crossing).
I decided to chance it. I left my backpack on the seat and walked out of the cafeteria and down a corridor, with little awareness of the layout of the ferry. And that’s when things took an even stranger turn. As I exited the cafeteria there was a man standing in the corridor that I took little notice of but as I passed by him I felt his gaze upon me, and in my peripheral vision I noticed his eyes follow my every step. What was this now? I tried to out it down to a coincidence but within seconds a third man passed me in the corridor and this guy was looking at me with even more intensity than either of the other two. I don’t go ‘out out’ very often but not even when I’ve been in clubs in Dublin dressed-up have I ever been subjected to anything like the intense male interest I was on this ferry. It was all the more surprising to me considering how rough I thought I looked due to having spent most of the day in the wind at Stranraer harbour and it’s train station.
I found myself trying to figure out what it was about me on this night that was different. Why was it the case that suddenly I was apparently being deemed an object of interest by the men on board? I wasn’t doing anything any differently than I would have back in Dublin where as I said I seem to be invisible. I was dressed like a typical backpacker for purely practical purposes – jeans, a top, cardigan, sneakers. And yet the extent of this interest, far from diminishing as the journey wore on, was actually intensifying. I figured that it probably had very little to do with me personally. I was the only female travelling solo on the boat that I could see and this fact, in addition to the peculiar sense of abandon that is rife on a ferry among gung-ho alpha male types had seemingly created some sort of perfect storm. As I walked around the boat there didn’t seem to be anywhere I could go without picking up a predatory vibe. I am far from prudish and ordinarily would have welcomed some interest but there was a palpably primal and I would say slightly sinister edge to it in this case that my instinct told me to be wary of.
I tried to stay focused on why I was here. Only two things are known for certain about Inga’s movements on the ferry, both of which are entirely innocuous. The second of them involved her going up on deck for some fresh air and to look out to sea at the approaching Ireland of her dreams. She was not to know that that view was pretty much all she would see of it.
I would have wanted to go up on deck anyway, to see the sea and take in the oceanic vista. And because I was here to retrace Inga’s movements to the letter, going up on deck as she had done was obviously necessary to maintain the integrity of my mission. But now I had a third reason to want, nay, need to go up on deck; The fact that I had by this point run out of places to go on the passenger deck that didn’t present one peril or another.
It was dark, cold and inevitably very windy when I ventured up on deck. Unlike when Inga walked up on deck on that fateful evening in 1988, there was no one else already there when I ventured up. So many things were running through my head. When I reached Larne, I would have to get to Belfast and find my hostel on foot and at night in a city that I’m not overly familiar with. I also had it on my mind that I would have to get from Belfast to Dublin the next morning to make it into work on time. But those more mundane concerns were now being overridden by blacker thoughts. I realised I didn’t really have a strategy for dealing with the situation I now found myself in. My instinct had already told me to avoid the bar and lounge area of the ferry. Then I had been practically driven out (no pun intended) of the cafeteria area by the guy who wouldn’t stop staring at me. Then I had gone for a walk through the ferry’s corridors only to find not one but two separate guys staring at me in a way that wasn’t what I was used to, and this had continued in other parts of the ferry that I wandered into. I reckoned there was no way of reasoning with the intensity I had been surprised to find on the passenger deck. Testosterone makes men crazy, at its zenith you can’t reason with it. It brings with it an incredibly strong compulsion, a drive so strong that it has played a vital role in fuelling the desire that has maintained mankind on this planet for millions of years as well as having been a significant component in the creation and perpetuation of wars, of the tendency of alpha figures to seek to control and dominate, and much else besides.
After a while up on deck I headed back indoors and decided to sit on the stairway for the remainder of the crossing. Then I remembered I had left my backpack in the cafeteria, where the creepy guy and his mate were.
I’d have to go back down there. Fortunately the ferry would soon dock. I was looking forward to getting on the train after arriving at Larne. A blizzard of images was flying through my mind.
The space between the boat and the train.
The wheres, the whats, the whys.
Above all else, her. On that night, on this sea, more than 30 years before me. Approximately 280,000 hours before now. She was here, oblivious to her magnificence, and equally unaware of the horrendous fate that lay in wait. A force for good, an artistic avatar, an intrepid explorer, a gleaming beacon of luminous youth. Unwittingly trapped in time. And fast running out of time as the precious seconds ticked by. Caught in the jagged jaws of a monster’s merciless urges. Guided by the guiltiest of hidden hands.
That night. That evening, even. 160 mystifying minutes on a cross-channel ferry in 1988.
Three decades on, the aftershocks still haven’t stopped reverberating. Over the last few years Inga’s case has become more relevant and more topical than ever before, which is extraordinary, and a feat perhaps unparalleled in crime history after such an elongated timespan.
Above all, what I found most surprising was that here I was on a trip where I had resolved to retrace Inga’s steps, and I was gaining a totally-unexpected insight into what it was probably like for her on the same ferry crossing. Except in Inga’s case it must have been so much worse. For 1988 was an era that predated many of the subsequent advances of feminism, and the significant softening of male culture that has simultaneously gradually evolved in society over the last three decades. Furthermore, the extent of alcohol consumption was arguably even more rampant in the 1980s, especially on cross-channel ferries which have a unique air of loose abandon to them, being literally ‘at sea’ and somewhat outside the confines of the codes of conduct that check the free reign of those so inclined on dry land. Even more pertinently, on the night Inga was on board this ferry crossing, she was one of 422 passengers. By contrast there seemed only a fraction of that amount of people on the ferry I was on, and yet despite that, and despite my belief that the present day is a far safer climate for people in general in Ireland and the British Isles than was the case in 1988, I was shocked at the predatory air that was filling this ferry.
I would walk off the ferry with one overriding, ominous question; If it was that intense for me in this day and age, just how bad must it have been for Inga in 1988?
The answer to that question can be most accurately gauged by what happened to her shortly after she arrived at Larne…
TO BE CONTINUED
Inga Maria Hauser
May 28th 1969 – April 6th 1988. Never forgotten.
Copyright: Keeley Moss ℗&©2020. All rights reserved.
Acknowledgements for Part 32
Locked Out written by Neil Finn. Published by Warner Chappell Music, Inc, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. ©1994
Ocean Rain written by McCulloch/Sergeant/Pattinson/De Frietas. Published by Warner/Chappell Music ©1984