There’s a good reason things have been quiet here lately — I’ve been writing a long-read article for the FAZ (in German) about the case of Jens Söring.
I hadn’t planned this. But after I published a piece (g) on November 25, 2019 in the FAZ questioning Jens Sörings innocence claims, events started cascading. First, Söring was released from prison on parole that same day. That was a coincidence. Söring arrived in Germany on December 17th, 2019.
Shortly before his arrival, I obtained a copy of a 454-page long report on the Söring case written by Terry Wright, a Scotland Yard detective who personally interviewed Söring and remained closely involved in evaluating Sörings innocence claims. Wright’s report discusses every claim that has ever been made by Sörings supporters, and demonstrates that none of them call his guilt into question. The FAZ asked me to write an exclusive overview and analysis of the report, to be a sort of final capstone on the question of Jens Söring’s guilt.
That is what I’ve done, working furiously, over the past three weeks. The article is now being edited, and will be published on the FAZ website sometime in the coming days. In the meantime, however, I thought I would write a series of daily posts debunking 10 myths about the Söring case. The posts are intended to be a teaser for the much fuller analysis in the FAZ piece and of course in the Wright report itself, which will be published (in English) soon; right now it’s being prepared for wider release. For background on the Söring case, see my previous English posts here.
Today we’ll be looking at a claim constantly made by Sörings supporters: That “DNA evidence” proves there were two unknown male assailants at the crime scene.
This claim has only existed since 2016. Before that, Söring was extremely clear about who killed Derek and Nancy Haysom: it was their daughter, Elizabeth Haysom. In his 1995 English-language book Mortal Thoughts, which can be read in its entirety here, Söring explains his version of events. Elizabeth Haysom left Washington DC in their rental car to pick up drugs from a man named “Jack Bauer”. She was supposed to transport them to Charlottesville to pay off a debt. Instead, she returned home at 2:00 AM, distraught, and confesses to killing her parents (p. 66):
“Over and over she repeats variations of the same phrases: I’ve killed my parents, I’ve killed my parents. But it wasn’t me, it was the drugs that made me do it, the drugs did it, not me. They deserved it anyway, my whole bloody childhood, always sending me away, and now they want to control every little thing, it serves them right, they deserved it. If you don’t help me, they’ll kill me, you have to help me or I’ll go to the electric chair, you have to help me or they’ll kill me.
Sörng later recalls: “I should have stopped her! But because of my foolishness, Derek and Nancy Haysom died at the hand of their own daughter. I could have saved their lives, but I failed.” (p. 201). Söring also mentions that Elizabeth had changed clothes, and had “dry reddish-brown smears” on her forearms. Sörings version, as of 1995, couldn’t be clearer: Elizabeth Haysom killed her own parents single-handedly. There’s not the slightest hint of any accomplices.
Fast-forward to 2016: Söring and his supporters discover a supposed anomaly in the evidence. Four bloodstains which were classified as having Type O blood (Söring’s blood type), yielded male DNA which wasn’t Söring’s. Two stains which were classified as being Type AB blood (Nancy Haysom’s blood type) were shown to have male DNA which didn’t match Sörings. This is the source of the oft-repeated claim that DNA proves there were “two unknown male” accomplices at the crime scene. This conflicts completely with Söring’s 1995 version in Mortal Thoughts, in which there’s no mention of these men.
But still, perhaps it just might be the case that Elizabeth Haysom somehow convinced two male acquaintances to help her kill her parents (in a state famed for its eagerness to impose capital punishment), and then failed to mention this fact to Söring not only on the night of the crime, but also for all of the nearly 7 months they traveled the world together as fugitives from justice. It would certainly be a very strange story if true, but according to Soering’s supporters, the new DNA evidence backs it up. Are they right?
The answer is no. Detective Wright analyzes the DNA evidence for nearly 100 pages, and comes to the inevitable conclusion: All of the male DNA which was recovered from the crime scene belonged to Derek Haysom. The evidence samples in the Söring case were hopelessly degraded and contaminated; only 15% yielded any DNA profile, and those profiles were all partial. But they were all consistent with coming from only one male. That means bloodstains which were typed as O (Söring’s blood type) or AB (Nancy Haysom’s blood type), also contained traces of Derek Haysom’s DNA, which was the only testable DNA which survived.
As Wright points out, this is not at all an uncommon result. Blood type testing tests different properties, uses different protocols, and reports different results than DNA testing, which is many orders of magnitude more sensitive. In the Söring case itself, several samples with visible blood on them yielded no DNA results, while other samples with only minute traces of blood — not enough for full blood typing — did yield results. This is what one would expect, since Derek Haysom was badly mutilated during the attack — he was nearly decapitated. When Söring was repeatedly hacking away at Haysom’s body, huge amounts of Haysom’s DNA — not just from blood, but also hair follicles, skin cells, saliva, cartilage, soft tissue — got everywhere. Söring himself said Haysom “refused to lay down and die” during their epic fight to the death.
This is why the independent experts who have evaluated the evidence, including Betty Layne Desportes and Dan Krane, have all come to the same conclusion: the DNA evidence proves only that Derek Haysom was at the crime scene and left DNA there. The results neither prove Söring was at the crime scene nor exclude him. They also provide no proof at all that anyone except the victims deposited DNA at the crime scene.
In other words, Söring’s supporters are making an exaggerated claim based on partisan reasoning and selective use of the evidence. As we will see, that is a common thread to almost all of these myths.
Tomorrow I’ll deal with Myth 2: Söring was denied access to a lawyer.