Belfast Telegraph

Family of murdered Inga Maria optimistic justice near after arrests

By Allan Preston and Brett Campbell

The family of a German backpacker murdered in Northern Ireland say they are "hopeful" after the PSNI arrested two men.

The body of 18-year-old Inga Maria Hauser was discovered in Ballypatrick Forest in Co Antrim in April 1988.

The murder has remained one of our most high-profile unsolved cases.

Following a highly publicised appeal for information, the PSNI arrested two men from the Loughguile area of Co Antrim aged 58 and 61 on suspicion of murder.

Both have since been released on bail pending further enquiries.

Ms Hauser's sister Friederike and her son Viktor Leibl have said they are hopeful they are getting closer to justice.

"We've been hoping for news like this for I don't know how long," Mr Leibl said.

"It's great that police found someone, but I'll wait until I'm sure. We are optimistic and I hope this is finally over now.

"My mother was the one who told me over the weekend. She's hopeful and even a little bit excited."

Last month detectives said that a group of people may have been involved in the murder or in the cover-up, and said they only needed fractional pieces of evidence to bring the chief suspects to justice.

The genetic profile of a male was found at the scene, but the suspect was never identified despite a DNA screening across the UK of more than 2,000 people.

The last time Ms Hauser was seen was on a ferry crossing from Stranraer to Larne after travelling through Scotland and England. She was meant to go to Dublin, but for unknown reasons headed north.

In a BBC Spotlight programme aired last night, Mr Leibl, who was born five years after his aunt was killed, revealed that his mother "still feels guilty" about her last conversation with her sister.

"They had an argument. This is always a big burden to bear, but I'm sure she knows her sister loved her," he explained.

He said that getting justice is important for his mother and the rest of the family, although Ms Hauser's father Josef has passed away. "Finally we can leave this behind and we can be free of this curse," he added.

Mr Leibl also revealed that Ms Hauser's mother Almut now lives in a care home in Salzburg, Austria, and suffers from severe dementia.

"She doesn't remember it anymore because she often doesn't remember my name when I visit her," he said.

"It's a two-sided sword, actually. It's a horrifying disease she has, but she has none of the pain and the memory of her lost child, which might be a good thing."

Ms Hauser, who dreamt of travelling the world, had sent a postcard home just days before she was murdered to tell her parents that she couldn't imagine anyone causing her harm.

But a diary entry on the morning she disappeared reveals the teenager was in a financial crisis. "I have no money," she wrote.

Dublin musician Keeley Moss, who has been fighting for justice on Ms Hauser's behalf, told the programme that her final diary entry may suggest that she was "amenable to the suggestion of a lift".

She also recalled a conversation she had with the first police officer on the scene who told her that Ms Hauser was "unrecognisable" when she was discovered and that they initially believed she was "a young male victim of a punishment shooting".

Ms Moss was referring to retired RUC superintendent George Caskey, who worked on the case.

"The first thought that came into my mind was: 'What are we going to tell her parents?'," he said.

Mr Caskey expressed frustration that a 1989 Crimewatch reconstruction led to many leads from around the UK, but none proved credible. Walter Schreiner, Ms Hauser's childhood friend, who went to the same youth club as her, said he was appalled at the priest who spoke at her funeral and almost walked out of the service.

"He said awful things," Mr Schreiner recalled. "It was her fault, it was the fault of her parents, she was too young to travel in a foreign country - I couldn't believe what he said."

He pleaded to those who know what happened to his friend to "give her back to us".

In recent weeks it was reported that the IRA had conducted its own investigation into the murder at the time, but decided not to pass information on to the RUC.

Belfast Telegraph

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