horror crime | 

Murdered backpacker Inga-Maria Hauser's sister says her life has been a nightmare for 33 years

Inga-Maria's partially clothed body was found in a remote area of Ballypatrick Forest and her murderer has never been caught.
Inga Maria Hauser's sister, Friederike Leibl

Inga Maria Hauser's sister, Friederike Leibl

Roisin Gorman

The sister of murdered German backpacker Inga-Maria Hauser says her life has been a nightmare for 33 years.

Friederike Leibl is haunted that she fought with her teenage sister on the day she left home to travel the UK and Ireland, and never got to say goodbye.

On April 20, 1988 Inga-Maria's partially clothed body was found in a remote area of Ballypatrick Forest and her murderer has never been caught.

In the new BBC documentary Murder in the Badlands, former State Pathologist Jack Crane revealed the 18-year-old fought for her life.

He found she died from a brain haemorrhage caused by severe head and neck injuries, and her killing was sexually motivated.

Friederike says the killer destroyed the family's lives too. Inga-Maria's parents Josef and Almut both died without ever knowing who took their daughter from them.

Inga Maria Hauser: Courtesy of the Hauser family

Inga Maria Hauser: Courtesy of the Hauser family

"We argued on the day she left, and I couldn't say goodbye in a good way. It's still haunting me. I still get nightmares because of this," says Friederike.

"Please help me solve this case. Take my sister's soul. She wants to rest in peace now. Now she's a ghost and she appears in my dreams. It's a nightmare I'm going through. Please help me," she says.

Her son Viktor also grew up with the ghost of Inga-Maria and the impact of her murder on the family.

"My mother was very affected by that of course. She never recovered, I think.

"My mum blamed herself for what happened and of course her parents blamed themselves for what happened, and everyone drifted apart for a while," he says.

The unsolved murder has become one of the most notorious in Northern Ireland.

The adventurous young woman from Munich - described as a shining light by her childhood friends - had set off on a solo tour of the UK and Ireland. Her final diary entry as she made the ferry crossing from Stranraer to Larne on April 6, 1988 reads 'saw the sea, beautiful and mysterious. Wonder where I stay tonight. Need more money.'

Within hours she had been brutally murdered by a stranger she'd met on the ferry, possibly a lorry driver who picked her up when Inga-Maria returned to the boat to retrieve something and then discovered the passenger exit was closed.

A large crowd attened the unveiling of a Memoriam stone to the young German girl Inga Maria Hauser who lost her life at BallyPatrick forest park in 1988.

A large crowd attened the unveiling of a Memoriam stone to the young German girl Inga Maria Hauser who lost her life at BallyPatrick forest park in 1988.

When the ferry docked at 9.30pm she didn't make it to the 10pm train to Belfast as she'd planned.

The alarm was raised when a friend in Wales reported that Inga-Maria hadn't shown up to visit her as arranged, plunging the family into days of desperation.

"It was awful," says her sister.

"The last one was a postcard that came in April and then the conversation stopped, and we heard nothing of her. Where is she? Did she leave with another man? What did she do?

"We got the phone call she's dead on my mum's birthday, April 20. It hit her very hard. Can you imagine this? We didn't believe this. This was the first time I saw my dad cry. It was the first reaction. My mum sat and held her head," says Friederike.

A sheep farmer found the young woman's body in a remote area of the 10,000-acre forest near Ballycastle, so secluded police believe only someone with local knowledge could have dumped her there.

Retired pathologist Jack Crane still recalls the eerie setting, miles from anywhere, and knowing the young victim had set out on an adventure and found death.

Environmental conditions made it hard to determine the time of death, and it was initially thought she might have been alive for days, but a 2006 PSNI review found Inga-Maria was dead within hours of arriving in Northern Ireland, and had been violently murdered.

Inga Maria Hauser's nephew, Viktor Leibl

Inga Maria Hauser's nephew, Viktor Leibl

"There was little doubt that she had been kicked and stamped on the back. Probably her head had been forced backwards, with someone leaning on top of her when she was face down on the ground," says the pathologist.

"I think it's very likely that she had been attempting to protect herself and that's probably how a number of the injuries that she got were sustained."

A partial DNA sample was recovered from the scene, and the 2006 review uncovered a full DNA sample from the same man, but it doesn't match the person who's the main suspect.

The police investigation has been criticised for failings including the destruction of items of Inga-Maria's underwear - the PSNI says all forensic evidence had been recovered - and the lack of contact with her family.

The Hausers have now asked their solicitor to press for an inquest and Phil Scraton, the Queen's law professor and Hillsborough campaigner, believes the case was not investigated properly.

Police sent a file to the PPS in 2019 regarding a man they believed was involved in the murder and a woman who helped him conceal it, but the prosecutors said the evidential test had not been met. After years of campaigning, Friederike has made another plea for help from the public to solve the death which still haunts her.

Son Viktor reveals he's the only family member who visits Inga-Maria's grave as it's too painful for his mother.

"There's a saying 'we are only dead as long as no one remembers us' and as long as she gets remembered there is still something of her left in the world," he says.

- Murder in the Badlands is available on the BBC player.


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