Welcome to Part 10 of my series on myths and misconceptions in the innocence claims of Jens Söring. These were originally intended as teasers for a very long article I wrote in German for the FAZ about the Söring case. That article has now been published under the title “Last Words on the Söring Case”, you can read it here. If you contact me using the form on this website, I will be happy to send you a copy. I am also working on an English translation of the article.
This is a special post about a curious aspect of the case which I just became aware of. As readers of this blog know, Jens Söring published a full account of his innocence claims in English on the Internet in 1995 under the title “Mortal Thoughts”. You can read the entire book here, on an archived page. Someone has apparently tried to scrub the book from the Internet, so it is only available in archive form. There’s a good reason people have tried to scrub it: “Mortal Thoughts” contains many false statements, some of which are clearly defamatory.
However, “Mortal Thoughts” lives on! I had been vaguely aware that Söring had published a book in German called “Nicht Schuldig!” (Not Guilty!) a few years ago. I’d never read the book or looked into it. However, the book has been reprinted since Söring’s release from prison with a new foreword. The full title of the book is “Not Guilty! 33 Years of US Prison for a Crime I Didn’t Commit”. The red dot on the cover was placed there after his release and reads “German Victim of Miscarriage of Justice Finally Free”.
I decided to buy a copy of “Nicht Schuldig!” to check out what Söring’s current version of his story was. And it turns out that this book is nothing more than a German translation of “Mortal Thoughts”! A credit is given to the person who translated Söring’s English-language book into German.
Of course, I immediately scanned the new German book to find out whether it included the falsehoods and bizarre theories presented in “Mortal Thoughts”. Most of them are there, translated largely word-for-word from English into German. However, one particularly defamatory passage was removed from the German text.
In “Mortal Thoughts”, Jens Söring accuses the London Metropolitan Police detectives who interviewed him, Terry Wright and Kenneth Beever, of refusing to let him contact his lawyer. As I pointed out, Söring’s account is a lie on two separate levels. First of all, Söring declined a meeting with his lawyer in writing at 12:50 PM on June 5, 1986. Second of all, Söring was — despite his earlier waiver — allowed to speak to his English solicitor Keith Barker at 4:30 PM that same day.
Söring apparently realized there was a paper trail which proved he turned down a meeting with his lawyer, and felt he needed to explain this fact. So he told a most remarkable story about Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever I quote directly from pages 169-170 of “Mortal Thoughts”, which can be accessed directly here):
From March 1-5, 1990, Judge Sweeney heard the defence’s motion to suppress my “confession” of 1986. This was the most important of the many pre-trial hearings: if the police were found to have denied me access to an attorney during questioning, my statements would not be admitted as evidence at trial. Credibility was the central issue, as in most such motions. Should Judge Sweeney believe my claim that an English policeman had threatened to hurt Liz if I did not agree to speak to the detectives without my lawyer’s presence? Or should the judge believe that one American and two English investigators, who all insisted that my right to an attorney had not been violated?
The prosecution argued that I had knowingly and willingly consented to questioning without counsel. Except for the first two sessions at 3:35 and 6:00 p.m. on June 5, 1986, I had signed Miranda waiver forms before each interrogation. Someone as intelligent and educated as I could hardly claim that I had not understood my rights, and there was no evidence of physical coercion. Those portions of the interrogations which had been tape recorded contained fairly polite interviews without direct verbal threats.
But I testified that I had only signed the waiver forms and talked to police because I had feared for Elizabeth’s safety. The English Detective Sergeant Kenneth Beever had come to my holding cell alone and told me that Liz might fall down and hurt herself if I did not drop my demands for a lawyer.
This is, of course, a grave allegation. Threatening a suspect is not only misconduct but a serious crime in its own right.
Why did Söring make this allegation? The answer is obvious, as he himself admits: He had been fully informed of his rights, and declined a meeting with his lawyer in writing and verbally several times while giving his confessions. Over and over, detectives offered to stop Söring’s interrogation and allow him to speak to his lawyer, as documented meticulously in this excellent blog. Söring declined, on tape, each time. Four years later, however, Söring realized that if his confessions were introduced in his trial in Virginia, he would likely be convicted. So he had to find some argument why his repeated waivers of his right to meet his lawyer were invalid. And that is why he accused Kenneth Beever of abuse and extortion.
Before Söring’s trial, the Bedford County Court held days of hearings into the circumstances of Söring’s confessions to determine whether they were legally admissible. Söring took the witness stand and pledged an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as all witnesses in American court proceedings must do. He testified that Kenneth Beever had threatened to harm Elizabeth Haysom in a bid to get Söring to drop his demands for a lawyer. Kenneth Beever, also under oath, denied ever having done so. Judge William Sweeney issued an order resolving this dispute. Here is an excerpt from the judge’s order:
A threshold issue needs to be decided because it could affect other rulings as to the voluntariness of the statements. The evidence at the March 1, 1990, hearings was in direct conflict on this factual issue, and thus the Court must make a decision based on credibility and the totality of the circumstances.
Jens Soering testified that on the evening of the first day he was interviewed by Bedford County authorities in London, a Scotland Yard detective, Kenneth Beever, made threats to him to the effect that physical harm would come to Elizabeth Haysom, also in jail, if he (Soering) did not cooperate and waive his rights to counsel.
Simply stated, I do not believe Soering on this issue. He produced no corroboration, written or oral. The officer emphatically denied making such statement, and the subsequent taped interviews which the court listened to for five hours gave no suggestion that Soering was acting under duress at any time. Further, he has been previously convicted of a crime of moral turpitude which affects his credibility under Virginia law. Additionally, his concerns for Elizabeth Haysom at the time seems strange since he freely implicated her in his early statements to police.
This, of course, represents an official finding that Jens Söring lied under oath. In the event Söring’s confessions were admitted, and they convicted him.
I immediately turned to the relevant passage in the German version of “Mortal Thoughts”. Here it is, in the form of a screen capture from the current Kindle edition of the book “Nicht Schuldig!”:
As you can see even if you don’t read German, both passages begin with a note that the hearings on Söring’s confessions lasted from March 1-5, 1990. However, in the German version, there is no reference whatsoever to Beever’s alleged threats against Elizabeth Haysom. I also searched the entire German book for Beever’s name. The allegation is nowhere to be found.
So during the translation from German into English, someone — the editor or publisher, or perhaps Söring himself — decided to drop the defamatory lie about Kenneth Beever. Most of the other lies, however, did indeed survive the transition from English to German.