Police probing 1988 murder of German backpacker appeal to killer's protectors
A senior detective has urged those shielding the killer of a German backpacker in Northern Ireland that it is not too late to do the right thing.
Inga Maria Hauser, from Munich, was murdered 29 years ago shortly after arriving in the region off a ferry from Scotland.
Her body was discovered two weeks later - on April 20 1988 - in a remote part of Ballypatrick Forest on the outskirts of Ballycastle, Co Antrim.
No one has ever been convicted. A man was arrested and questioned last year but later released without charge.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray acknowledged "strenuous efforts" to find the killer or killers over the last three decades had yet to succeed, but he insisted the case was still active and officers remained "tantalisingly close" to catching those responsible.
A number of years ago, in one of the largest DNA screenings ever undertaken in the UK, 2,000 samples failed to produce a definitive match to a male genetic profile found at the murder scene.
Mr Murray said Ms Hauser had been victim of a "vicious and ruthless assault". Detectives believe whoever killed her had a sexual motive.
"Through a DNA screening process, which was one of the largest ever conducted, several hundred people have been screened," said Mr Murray.
"The large majority of these in Northern Ireland but also some in Great Britain.
"Extensive inquiries were also conducted with people who were on the ferry in 1988, despite there being incomplete passenger records.
"We have interviewed and recorded statements from hundreds of people and also carried out a renewed house-to-house strategy in 2011.
He added: "While it has to be recognised that Northern Ireland is dealing with a legacy of over 3,000 murders (linked to the Troubles), which is unique compared to any other European country, the PSNI is keen to bring Inga Maria's murderer to justice.
"We still believe there are people in that community who know who killed Inga Maria and I would appeal to anyone who has any information, even at this late stage to contact police.
"We remain convinced that we are tantalisingly close to identifying Inga Maria's killer or killers. If everyone who has information was prepared to place it before the courts then a different resolution to the case could be possible.
"Inga Maria's family deserve to know what happened and bring them some degree of closure."
His comments came as Assembly member John Dallat vowed to continue pushing for justice.
The SDLP East Londonderry representative said the murder haunted him.
"At least one person out there and, more than likely a few, know exactly what happened to Inga when she disembarked from the Larne ferry and accepted a lift from a lorry driver believing she was on her way to Belfast rather than to an untimely grave in Ballypatrick Forest near Ballycastle," he said.
"Inga's unsolved murder isn't the only one in Northern Ireland - of course it isn't - and all of them deserve to be solved.
"However, this young girl, hardly more than child, was the twin daughter of a German family who believed they could trust us to look after her, protect her from harm and allow her to return home to Munich safety after visiting a friend.
"They were wrong because someone broke her trust, broke her neck and disposed of her body, which wasn't found for two weeks while police were frantically searching for her."
He said the backpacker's family deserved justice.
"There is no one that I am aware of to speak for the Hauser family but as a public representative and a father of a daughter who travelled to different parts of the world safely, I felt it was my duty to adopt that role," said Mr Dallat.
"I also believe I continue to appeal for justice on behalf of everyone appalled and disgusted by what happened all those years ago."
He added: "I appeal to anyone who knows anything about this murder to take the honourable course of action and make a valuable contribution to justice which will allow the Hauser family to bring closure to Inga's death.
"They may also be taking a dreadful burden off their own chests as they get older and prepare for their own departure from this life."
Six years ago, police said they had narrowed their inquiries to a small cluster of villages in north Antrim, claiming they were tantalisingly close to a breakthrough.
Detectives believe more than one person may have been involved. They think the killer may hail from the rural region east of Ballymoney, incorporating the villages of Armoy, Loughgiel and Cloughmills.