The search for the murderer of a teenage German backpacker in the North 20 years ago has been narrowed down to a small group of people who had detailed knowledge of the remote forest area where her body was found, police revealed today.
Inga Maria Hauser, 18, was discovered in Ballypatrick Forest in North Antrim on April 20 1988, a fortnight after she travelled to the North from Scotland by ferry, arriving in Larne.
She was subjected to a vicious and ruthless attack and police believe she died soon after arriving in the North.
Twenty years on police announced new developments in the case and renewed their appeal for assistance from the local community.
The officer in charge of the murder investigation, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, said a significant line of inquiry was now directed at people who had a particular knowledge of the part of the forest where the girl’s body was discovered.
At the same time it was revealed hundreds of local people have voluntarily supplied DNA samples for testing – after police said the data obtained would be confined to the specific investigation.
Det. Superintendent Murray said: “On the 20th anniversary of Inga Maria’s murder, police are publishing a map of the precise location where her body was found and a photograph of this location.
“Our inquiries lead us to believe that whoever killed Inga Maria and left her body in Ballypatrick Forest was familiar with that particular remote part of the forest.”
He said he needed to talk to anyone who would have had knowledge prior to April 1988 – whether through their work, or if they rented forestry plots or had any interest in the area.
The area where the teenager’s body was discovered is in the most western corner of Ballypatrick Forest, approximately two and a half miles from the Glenmakeeran Road and well off the main scenic drive through the forest which is used by the general public.
Det. Superintendent Murray said: “Inga Maria was a young woman with her whole life in front of her who met a terrible death in Northern Ireland.
“We owe it to her memory and to her parents back in Germany to bring her killer to justice. I believe a specific group of people with knowledge of Ballypatrick Forest can help us. I would ask them to do the right thing.
The PSNI has obtained advice from both behavioural and geographical profilers who agreed that the person responsible for the murder was likely to have been familiar with the specific location.
That, police said, was very significant as the location was so remote and was not used by the general public.
The location was known to have been used at the time by people who rented forestry plots – also working in the area were Forestry Service employees and sub-contract labourers.
It is also known that the forest was used by turf cutters who had rights to dig.
Police want all such people to now come forward to speak to them.
Mr Murray said: “There have been significant scientific advances in recent years in criminal investigation, and detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch are using a number of processes to further our inquiries.”
He added: “We believe an important seam of information for this investigation lies within a small group of people who had a detailed knowledge of the area of forest where Inga Maria’s body was found.
“We need those people to come forward and talk to us. All such persons are asked to come forward regardless of whether or not they feel they can help.”
It was vital people came forward regardless of whether they had been spoken to by police at the time of the original investigation in 1988, he said.
He pledged “This investigation is active and it is progressing. Our focus now is on those people who knew that part of Ballypatrick Forest 20 years ago. We need them, or anyone who knows them, to come forward.”