By Peter Moor
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has taken a decision not to prosecute two individuals reported in connection with the murder of German tourist Inga Maria Hauser in April 1988.
Two suspects – a 60-year-old man and a 57-year-old woman – were reported by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in respect of the circumstances surrounding Ms Hauser’s disappearance and death.
The 18 year old tourist arrived in Northern Ireland as part of a trip across Europe.
Her body was found two weeks after she arrived in a remote part of Ballypatrick Forest near Ballycastle.
The first suspect was reported in connection with Ms Hauser’s murder. The second suspect was reported for withholding information in relation to the murder from police.
The PSNI conducted an extensive and detailed investigation which resulted in the submission of a file to the PPS in June 2019.
A spokesperson for the PPS said, "All the evidence and information on this file was carefully considered by a team of senior prosecutors with the assistance of advice from independent senior counsel.
"It was concluded that the evidence in respect of both suspects did not provide a reasonable prospect of conviction for any offence.
All decisions as to prosecution are taken by the application of the Test for Prosecution, as set out in the PPS Code for Prosecutors.
"The Test is met if, in relation to an identifiable individual, the available evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction (the Evidential Test) and if prosecution is in the public interest (the Public Interest Test)."
In a statement, the PPS provided a list of the evidential difficulties which meant the Test for Prosecution was not met in the case of the first suspect.
They cited a lack of evidence to link the suspect to the victim after she disembarked the ferry at Larne Port on 6th April 1988.
There was also an absence of evidence to link the suspect to the location at which Ms Hauser’s body was found;
Also DNA evidence found at the crime scene, which was believed to be closely connected to the commission of the offence, did not match the suspect.
The PPS also said there was "a lack of clarity, arising from conflicting expert evidence, in relation to the approximate date of death which undermined the case against the suspect."
The PPS ruled in relation to the second suspect, the evidence was insufficient to establish that she possessed and withheld information that would have been of material assistance to the police investigation.
Speaking about the news, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Michael Agnew, said: "We in the PPS acknowledge the deep disappointment felt today by the family and friends who loved Inga Maria and still miss her.
🎥The Public Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute 2 individuals reported in connection with the murder of German tourist Inga Maria Hauser in Apr 1988.— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) July 8, 2020
Michael Agnew from @thePPSNI said: “The murder of Inga causes enduring distress and pain over 32 years later." pic.twitter.com/UYH2YcJAn5
“The file received by the PPS contained the product of extensive PSNI investigations and was given the most careful consideration by a team of highly experienced prosecutors. The Test for Prosecution was applied to this evidence, in line with our Code for Prosecutors.
“The standard of proof required in a successful criminal prosecution is high.
"The PPS can only prosecute a case which is assessed as having a reasonable prospect of conviction. In this case, our conclusion was that the available evidence was insufficient to meet this standard and therefore the Test for Prosecution was not met.
“We have offered reassurance to the family of Inga Maria that this decision was taken only after a most careful and thorough consideration of all available evidence.”
Mr Agnew said that the reasons for the decision were outlined to the victim’s family this morning.
The Deputy Director added: “The prosecution team today met with Inga Maria’s sister Friederike via video conference, alongside police, during which we outlined in detail the reasons for the decision not to prosecute.
"This rationale was also provided in writing. We thank Friederike for taking the time to meet with us.
“Should Inga Maria’s family wish to meet with us again in future, we are fully committed to doing so and will seek to answer any further questions that they may have.”
Following on from the decision, a statement was released by the family over Inga Maria Hauser.
In the statement they criticise the PSNI, in particular for their handling of DNA from the crime scene.
The family of murdered teenager Inga Maria Hauser are now seeking an inquest and an independent panel review into her death.— Q Radio News (@qnewsdesk) July 8, 2020
It follows a decision by the PPS not to prosecute a 60 year old man and a 57 year old woman in connection with her murder in 1988. https://t.co/vdk8FN9oJe
Reacting to the decision, the PSNI senior detective in charge of the murder inquiry said they will continue to investigate to try and bring the 18 year old’s murderers to justice.
Today, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray has made a renewed appeal to the public, in particular the local community in North Antrim, as well as people who may have seen her travelling in England, from London northwards and in Scotland, before she embarked on the Stranraer to Larne ferry on April 6 1988.
Police believe that Inga Maria died shortly after she arrived in Northern Ireland and that she was subjected to a vicious and ruthless assault.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, said: “Our thoughts are with Inga Maria’s family today as we know the Public Prosecution Service decision not to prosecute is another difficult milestone in the search for justice for their loved one.
"This is difficult news for Inga Maria’s family and also for the detectives who have spent many years trying to bring those responsible before the courts. However, this decision does not signify the end of the enquiry for police.”
“We realise that the PPS gave very careful consideration to the file of evidence and we are grateful for the chance we had to present the case to the PPS and Senior Counsel.
"Indeed we have had a further in depth meeting with the prosecution team at which we received the benefit of their thoughts on the case and the evidence to date.
"This is extremely useful for me and my team going forward as we continue to investigate Inga Maria’s murder and we will now assess what is the best way to proceed.
“The police have been committed to finding Inga Maria’s killer for over 30 years and whilst not yet meeting the evidential threshold we have made significant progress.
A poster released by police urging for the public to come forward with any information they may have.
“Unfortunately due to the current health protection regulations, we have been unable to meet with the family as we would normally do, however I was able to discuss this investigation with Inga Maria’s sister Friederike via video conference facility hosted by the PPS earlier today and can reassure her that we remain as committed as ever to bringing Inga Maria’s murderers to justice.
“This has been a huge and complex investigation and has included a long term forensic effort to identify the man whose DNA was recovered from the crime scene and understand how it fits into the case.
"This has included a mass screening exercise of around 1800 samples taken face to face, extensive work on two occasions with the national database to try and trace the DNA through potential family members of the crime scene material donor, and an international request for other countries to check their databases also.
“Over the years we have watched developments in science and explored them to see if they can benefit this case. We will continue to look at every reasonable opportunity to do this.
“Our commitment to bringing Inga Maria’s murderers to justice has been relentless. Over the 30 years we have spoken to hundreds of potential witnesses, used cutting edge science and made targeted media appeals in Northern Ireland and Scotland to push the enquiry forward.
"We have taken 2551 statements, written 662 reports, conducted 292 questionnaires, conducted over 400 house to house enquiries, conducted 29 interviews, processed 7400 documents and consulted with specialists in fields from behavourialism to DNA science.
“Inga Maria’s family need to know what happened to her. Her parents both died not knowing who killed their daughter and her sister remains heartbroken.
“I would also make a direct appeal today to the family and friends of the murderer or murderers to come forward.
"If you are a family member who has information, or who even assisted the killer or killers in the aftermath of the incident, think hard about the impact of all this on Inga’s family and step up and help bring an end to their plight.
“Give us the information we need to take this investigation forward. Ask yourself what you would want people to do if this was your daughter or granddaughter – subjected to a brutal and ruthless assault after arriving in a new country before being killed and left in a forest.
"Think of the fear and pain she felt, think of her family not having justice. Do the decent thing.”
Anyone with information should contact detectives in Maydown on 02871379783 or call anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
In repsonse to the news SDLP Councillor Helena Dallat O’Driscoll has said that there is disappointment after a PPS announcement that no prosecution will follow a fresh probe into the murder of Inga Maria Hauser.
The councillor's late father, John Dallat, an SDLP MLA, spent three decades fighting for justice for the teenager's family, right up until his death last month.
Councillor Helena Dallat O’Driscoll said: “It’s deeply disappointing to learn that there will be no prosecutions following a fresh probe into the murder of German backpacker Inga Maria Hauser in 1988.
“Inga Maria was a much loved young woman when she came to Northern Ireland in the late 80s. She deserved so much better than to be so callously taken from her friends and family and left in Ballypatrick forest.
"Her murder has left an indelible scar on this part of our island and on the lives of those who have campaigned for decades for justice.
“This is a cause that is so close to the hearts of my family. We will continue to do all we can to fight for justice for Inga Maria.”