Söring supporters often claim Elizabeth Haysom confessed to personally killing her parents, but the police never followed up on her statement. As with most of Söring’s arguments, this one relies on ripping a brief quotation out of its original context, and hoping the reader will never bother to look further.
But that’s why I’m here!
The background: From June 5-8, 1986, Jens Söring confessed, hesitantly, to creating a plot with his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom, to kill Haysom’s parents. He didn’t reveal everything, but he revealed enough. According to Söring, Elizabeth Haysom’s role in the plot was to create an alibi for Söring by buying two movie tickets to various movies, and ordering room service for two people. Haysom knew that Söring was driving to Lynchburg, Virginia, to confront Elizabeth’s parents and, if they continued to oppose the relationship, attack them.
At the same time, from June 5-8, 1986, Elizabeth Haysom had not confessed anything substantive to police about her role in the killings. But on June 8, 1986, Söring confessed everything in detail. On the evening of June 8, 1986, detective Kenneth Beever confronted Elizabeth Haysom with information based on what Jens had told them. At first Elizabeth Haysom attempted to deny and downplay the murder plot. She admits helping Söring buy a butterfly knife on the morning of March 30, 1985, but claims Söring told her the knife was a birthday present for his brother. Haysom continued to deny all advance knowledge of Söring’s plans.
Yet, like Söring, she wondered and worried about what the detectives knew (after all, they might still be talking to Söring), and thought she could explain away the suspicious circumstances. So she asked to talk to the detectives. Haysom requested to speak to detectives at 9:55 PM on June 8, 1986. Beever describes the beginning phase of the interview as follows (quoting from the testimony of Kenneth Beever from Haysom’s sentencing hearing on August 24, 1987, p. 94-96):
A: Yes, she did, sir; that was on the — initially it was on the 8th of June, and that would be the Sunday evening and she initiated contact at 9:55. She was kept in a cell and there’s a bell inside the cell that attracts the desk sergeant when it’s rung. Ms. Haysom did this and I was summoned to the charge room complex.
I asked her what she wanted and she said can I speak to Jens. And I said no. And she said why not? And I said because I’m still conducting a murder inquiry and it would be highly irregular for you to speak to Jens. And she said has Jens admitted the murders to you? And I said I’m not going to tell you that, but I’m perfectly happy with the way the investigation is going.
And I closed the cell door, sir, and left her there.
And I waited, and then about 10:12 that evening I was called back to the charge room the same way she’d rung the bell and the custody sergeant sent for me and I spoke to her again. And she said I want to come an talk to you, speak to you alone and discuss my side of the story. And I allowed her to do this…. I took her to a room adjacent to the CID office and I just allowed Elizabeth to just talk freely and tell me her side of the story. And the story went that on the 29th of March she hired a car with Jens Soering and they went to Washington for the weekend. They slept the night at a hotel, which I later learned to be the Marriott Motel, and that morning they got up and Jens mentioned that he wanted to buy a knife, a particular kind of special knife for his young brother; it was his birthday and he was going to buy it as a birthday present. They got in the car and they went to this shop in Washington, but they weren’t allowed — she told me that they weren’t allowed to buy this particular type of knife but they were directed to a shop in Maryland. The drove there and Jens bought the knife ostensibly as a birthday present for his younger brother.
Jens then told her to buy two tickets for several movies, and disappeared, saying he was going to meet friends. He returned 7-8 hours later, in the early morning, covered with blood, and admitted he’d killed her parents. According to Elizabeth’s story at this time — around 11:00 PM on June 8, 1986 — Elizabeth had no advance knowledge Jens was going to kill her parents.
Beever, obviously, knows this is likely untrue, and decides to confront Elizabeth with this fact, based on the incriminating letters and diary entries the British police had found. We return to the testimony of Kenneth Beever from Haysom’s sentencing hearing on August 24, 1987. Beever is reciting a transcript of his recorded interrogation with Haysom. Page numbers from the court transcript are provided in parentheses:
(100): Q: Your parents disapproved of Jens, didn’t they? Before you answer that question, it’s half a minute to midnight and Mr. Wright, Detective Constable Wright, has just returned to the room with the letters in question. My question, my last question was, your parent disapproved of Jens, didn’t they?
A: Not particularly. They thought that he was too young for me, they thought that he was too possessive of me and that he took up too much of my time. But at the same time they admired his qualities. He had this fantastic brain and they knew that I enjoyed companionship (101) with somebody other than Americans.
It’s hard to describe when you’ve never lived in America. They have a different way of thinking, of being and it’s hard to be around all the time. They wanted me to have more than one boyfriend. They were a little bit nervous at the thought that I was so keen on Jens, but they didn’t particularly dislike him. I mean they took us out together frequently — well not frequently, but you know, several times.
Q: Yes, I understand. Well I can see that you’re obviously heading on to the letters that mattered. I just wondered, in that period of time you’ve been traveling around Europe, something in the region of eight months, okay?
A: Since October.
Q: And certainly it’s around fourteen months or thereabouts from the actual terrible weekend as it were; obviously you and Jens have talked about this since.
A: Yes. I said that when he started to talk about it, and I meant on a couple of occasions, I told him I don’t want to know.
Q: That’s not what I’m asking. I want to know whether or not what he has said if he did kill them.
THE COURT: Excuse me, my copy reads (102) that’s what I am asking, not that’s not what I am asking.
THE WITNESS: I’m sorry, Your Honor, beg your pardon.
A: Well I can tell you some of the things he said about it.
Q: But you don’t feel happy talking about it?
A: Well, no. I told you, but I don’t know very much myself because I couldn’t stomach it. I mean was hard enough to work around and sit in closets and sleep in the same bed and say to myself that person over there that you’re spending your life with, he killed your parents. Sitting in the kitchen and thinking, Christine [a mutual friend of Jens and Elizabeth] do you realize you have just baked a cake for a murderer?
Q: You said that in words to Christine?
A: No, I didn’t, I was thinking those words.
Q: How much did you tell Christine as a very close friend?
A: I said to Christine, I think Jens has killed my parents.
Q: Do you know when you said that to her?
A: Yes, I said it to her in the — several times, two weeks, in the two-week period before we left.
Q: In October? (103)
A: Uh-huh. It was sort of end of September, October. It was between when I gave my blood and fingerprints and footprints to Officer Reid and Gardner. I — at that stage the guilt was weighing very heavily on me and in my sort of odd way I was trying to help them to go and interview Jens.
I, for instance, I knew Jens was at my apartment when they wanted him and I tried to push them in the right direction because they were trying to get him a his place. And so I told one of the other officers he always lives with me, he doesn’t live at his apartment really. And they eventually got in touch with him there.
And during this period when — and they said to me, why won’t Jens have his fingerprints and all that stuff done. I said I don’t know, but I wish you would ask him instead of asking me. Because they always came to me about it instead of — they never went to him.
THE WITNESS: And she went on to say:
A: And during that time especially, it was Friday, I can’t remember, I wrote to Christine and I said to Christine I think Jens has killed my parents. It was along before that because it just didn’t work, I just didn’t know what to say to her and she called her work and said that she wasn’t coming in….
(105) Q: Did he tell you some of the things that he had done?
A: Okay. He–one of the first things he said was my God, your father put up, you know, a hell of a struggle. And then he said that dad had said my God, what do you think you’re doing. He said that he killed my mother first, that they had been talking to him like forty minutes and then he stood up and slit her throat.
Q: Did he tell you what room they were in?
A: He said they were in the dining room. He said that–I think he said my mother got up with her throat slit and started walking out of the dining room an he was struggling with my father. I believe he lost control of the knife and I think he lost his glasses in the fight.
And he said to me that my father was very strong and that he just–he said over and over again, he just wouldn’t lie down and die, basically. I know he said that. I don’t know what happened about my father, but then he went back to my mother, and I don’t know if she w s standing up or what was going on, but he then attacked he again because he thought that–I don’t know what he thought. And then he, I suppose, came back to my father. He said that my father was struggling right to (106) the very end and calling out with that enormous strength. And I don’t know any other details than that.
Q: He told you how many times he struck your father?
A: No, he didn’t. He just told me it had not been very nice. And when they told me how bad it was mean I — I didn’t know what to say to him. And he kept saying to me well, they just wouldn’t lie down and die.
Q: And you stayed with him after hearing all that?
THE WITNESS: There was a long pause and she said:
A: I was very scared.
Q: Were you scared or did you know it was going to happen anyway?
A: I beg your pardon?
Q: Did you know it was going to happen anyway?
A: What, the murder of my parents?
Q: Not when he goes and buys a butterfly knife that morning?
A: No. I mean it never crossed my mind he was going to go off and murder my parents.
Q: Let’s look at it this way: Let’s make a (107) start with point number one. When is his brother’s birthday?
A: I have no idea.
Q: And didn’t it cross your mind–let’s take the buying of the two cinema tickets; the first cinema yo went to, what crossed your mind when he asked you to buy two ticket for that cinema knowing that he was away, as you say seeing his friends. You didn’t expect to see that afternoon, did you, most certainly not at 2:30 in the afternoon.
A: I didn’t question him at all. I was getting out of the car. I was going into the cinema. He said buy a couple of tickets.
Q: But it doesn’t make sense to me.
Q: You bought two tickets for a cinema. You come out of that cinema, you go to another cinema that he didn’t know that you were going to. He was still away with his friends for the day as you say and you buy two tickets for another cinema. You go back to your hotel, he’s still not returned, and to me you waste money buying two meals on his VISA card. Did you sign for those on that card?
A: Yes, I’ve already said that.
Q: You forged his signature? (108)
A: I’m not worried about forging signatures.
Q: You know what I’m getting at, don’t you? You knew what was going to happen. I suggest to you Elizabeth, you knew what you were doing all day, didn’t you? You did, didn’t you?
A: No, I did not.
Q: You were creating an alibi.
A: That is not true.
Q: Why isn’t it true?
A: Because that’s not an alibi, that stinks, that’s not an alibi at all. You know that, I know that, it’s nothing.
Q: So you said you went to the movie.
Q: You bought two tickets?
A: Well, yeah. Nobody believes that.
Q: So why did you buy two tickets then?
A: I don’t know, he asked me to.
Q: Why did you buy two meals when he wasn’t there?
A: I was expecting him to walk in the door.
Q: You wasn’t expecting him to walk in and see Witness with you, you wasn’t expecting that. I caught you out on that one, now you’re wrong. Now what’s going on? You knew when he bought the knife that morning, you knew (109) when buying those tickets, that he was going for a confrontation with your parents.
A: I did not know that.
Q: And your parents were probably going to die as a result of that confrontation, you knew that, Elizabeth.
A: I did not.
Q After writing all those letters to him.
A: Look, I have enough guilt about egging him on so to speak with those wretched letters.
Q: You egged him on all right, not only with the letters, you egged him on in private, didn’t you Elizabeth? You knew it was going to happen and you were creating the alibi while he was committing the crime; that’s true, isn’t it? Tell me the truth Elizabeth. Are you going to answer me? Well are you going to answer me?
You’ve written letters to him willing your parents to death, you’ve led the poor boy to it most probably, or are you both as guilty as each other?
A: All right, I led him into it, I did everything.
Q: You knew he was going to do it, didn’t you? Did you?
A: I did it myself.
Q: Don’t be silly.
(110) A: I got off on it.
Q: You did what? What does that mean?
A: I was being facetious.
Here we have the famous “confession” by Elizabeth Haysom. Before we proceed, it’s time to clarify a point that confuses most observers of the case. Why would Haysom claim she “got off on” (i.e., was sexually excited by) killing her parents? Isn’t that a bizarre thing to say?
The answer is that this is a joke based on current events in the year 1985. Shortly before, in late 1984, an American woman named Karla Faye Tucker had been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in Texas. As Wikipedia informs us: “Tucker would later tell people and testify that she experienced intense multiple orgasms with each blow of the pickaxe.” The fact that Tucker was a woman, the lurid circumstances of her crime, the fact that she was sentenced to death, and her infamous claim of sexual gratification from murder made the case nationwide news. There was blanket press coverage all over the United States, and attention from other parts of the world as well. (The case again received worldwide attention when George W. Bush refused to commute Tucker’s death sentence shortly before his 2000 Presidential campaign).
That is the context of Haysom’s statement — she was making a facetious reference to Karla Faye Tucker. Beever doesn’t pick up on this, either because he was not familiar with the case or because he didn’t understand the American slang term “get off” as a description of sexual excitement; the term is usually used with different meanings in Britain.
Back to the interview:
Q: Okay, then, now tell me the truth, please, without being facetious. You did hate your parents.
A: I did not hate my parents.
Q: So why did you allow him to do that to you parents, then, and why did you create the alibi knowing that it was going to happen? Come on, answer me, just give me an answer. If you think I’m going to be stupid enough to believe that, oh, just buy two tickets, so I bought two tickets. Then you bought two tickets at a cinema that he didn’t know you was at, the Witness one, the Witness film two meals inside a hotel room where nobody could see you but eventual proof on a VISA card that two meals were purchased and you forged his signature; what do you want me to believe?
And an alleged birthday present of a butterfly knife that morning. Come on, now are you going to tell me the truth or not? Well are you? I can’t sit here all night not getting an answer.
A: I’ll tell you the truth. (111)
Q: Tell me now then, in your own words, come on, Elizabeth. Come on, you told me you were going to tell me the truth. Tell me why you created the alibi in the first place.
A: Because he was going to confront my parents.
Q: Yes, for what? What was he going to confront your parents about?
A: Their attitude towards me.
A: And Jens.
Q: Yes, it’s got a ring of truth to it now. I’ve already spoken to Jens; carry on.
A: He went down there with the knife with the possibility of killing them.
Q: And you knew that, didn’t you, didn’t you?
A: Yes, I did.
Q: And how long had you been plotting this?
A: The actual planning for the Washington thing, it took place, it wasn’t too long really; that’s why we didn’t have enough money.
Q: How long had you been talking about killing your parents?
A: A month.
Q: And before these letters in December? … (here there’s a long digression about exactly when Haysom and Söring talked about the plan to confront and potentially kill her parents)
(112) THE WITNESS: There was a long pause and then she said: “My father was violently jealous of anybody really who I associated with. He disliked anybody I knew He was usually possessive of me. If they were invited to a function which wasn’t even appropriate for me to go to, they would insist that I came along. They very rarely gave me any space or privacy. If I went upstairs to my room, they were always inquiring what I was doing, not to do it and to come down.”
THE WITNESS: The tape ended at that (113) stage. It was reversed and I went on to
Q: “We’re continuing the interview. The fresh tape has been inserted into the machine and it’s 12:24 a.m. and Elizabeth Haysom is telling me about her parents attitude and continually ringing her at the university. Would you like to go on?
A: My father wouldn’t even let me work. He wanted me to be with him all the time.
Q: For all these reasons you thought it was-you’d built up so much resentment for all these things that you thought murder was the answer.
A: Things had been building up for a very long time. In fact, when they sent me away to school when I was quite young, and when I needed adult guidance, a home of any kind, they would brush me off to the next home…. (Here is a digression about how they forced her to take A-levels in chemistry despite the fact she had no interest).
(115) Q: So you’re saying from a multitude of event throughout your life that caused you and Jens Soering to put your heads together between about Christmas 1984 up until the end of March to kill your parents, is that right?
A: I don’t think we seriously discussed it, discussed it in a sort of grotesque way, general grotesque way for a while, but we didn’t say start seriously discussing it until I would say March.
Q: The beginning of March?
A: Maybe the end of February or March, something like that, because it became completely apparent that even my doing German at the university was offensive to my parents because that was in some way giving part of myself to Jens.
Q: They disliked Jens, didn’t they?
A: As I said, not particularly Jens, but they disliked him because they knew how very much in love I was with him and they had never known me to be in love. They
hadn’t been with me.
Q: I’ve got to ask you one question. Did you (116) or do you stand to inherit any money from your parents’ death?
A: What I stand to inherit is enough money to put me through the university. My parents left it so that I would have enough to go through the university; not that I would control it, but the executors of the estate would control it and that they would pay for my education and that’s all. And then the interest and capital would be divided between six of us equally and the capital would eventually be divided amongst great-grandchildren.
Q: Is it obvious that in the event when you talked about this to Jens — no, I’m sorry, let’s go back to the last questions and talk about the whole — when you discussed what you and Jens might do, did you discuss how to throw the police off the scent? Did you talk about or did Jens or yourself come up with any ideas to insure that you and he weren’t suspects for the murder?
A: Well I arranged the alibi, great alibi that it was. Other than that, not really. He wiped his car and his place, I didn’t wipe mine.
Q: But you traveled all the way to Maryland for the knife, for the weapon.
A: Yes, it’s not very far. I mean Washington D. C. is the District of Columbia… (here Elizabeth draws an image of the knife Söring bought).
(118) Q: “You talk about really discussing murderin your parents at the beginning of March. Did you before t last weekend in March decide to go to Washington in order to create such an alibi?
A: Yes. Originally we planned to go to Washington twice.
Q: So you’d planned to kill them before or planned for Jens to kill them before.
A: Well as I say, we originally talked about (119) it in a kind of general way, and then we became more specific that we were actually going to do it rather than just talk about it. We thought we would go to Washington twice, the first time to set up a precedent, and then–
Q: Before you go any further, do you know which weekend you did what?
A: No, we never actually went.
Q: You planned it?
A: We planned it, we didn’t actually do it. We were going to set up a precedent and the weekend that we actually did it, did do it, was supposed to be the precedent weekend. But we discovered that we didn’t have enough money to go to Washington again and that–
Q: Not having enough money to go to Washington again for the weekend, did that account for the last minute arrangements to go out and buy the knife in
Q: So you got to Washington on the Friday evening and it was–and was it Friday evening you decided Saturday was the day, or was it Saturday morning?
Q: Saturday morning. And then from then on, that Saturday morning, the events took their course….
(120) Q: “What I’m getting at, you see, you wasn’t surprised [when Söring returned and confessed to killing the Haysoms].
A: Oh, I was surprised, I was, because I didn’t think he was going to do it. I mean I didn’t think–I knew that he might do it, okay, I mean before the knife, and we had made preparations and had the alibi then, but a large part of me didn’t honestly believe that he was going to do it.
I thought he was going to come back and say he had spoken to them and give them some excuse for being there and then just come back and that would be it. mean I just simply didn’t think that he would do it.
Q: But the reason you stayed with him and continued to love him, the real reason is, is because he has carried out your wishes because you wanted both your
A: That’s not why I love him.
Q: That’s why you don’t hate him, because h only carried out your wishes, hasn’t he?
A: I don’t think that’s completely fair. (121)
Q: Okay, it’s a suggestion by me. It wasn’t really a question. The truth of the matter is that your parents are now dead and you are part and parcel of their death, aren’t you?
Q: Because of their death — okay, I don’t think I want to say any more at this stage, I will terminate the interview now, and it is now 12:41. I’m switching the tape off now.”
She requested a further interview which happened at 2:06 AM, and said:
(123) I requested further statement to be given because I felt that I had betrayed my love for Jens, my loyalty to him and that I had done him a disservice. don’t know if the charges against me, what it will be, but (124) as I said in one of my letters, we did it together and in some ways I’m more guilty than he is, because I mean he loved me beyond reason; I loved him beyond reason, too. I loved him beyond reason, and I suppose I used that love, and because of my own weakness of character
I many times have tried to wriggle out of that responsibility and that guilt of putting him in this position. I can’t do that any longer. I can’t bear leaving my last statement as it stands.
I believe Mr. Beaver [sic] referred to Jens as that poor boy. I suppose that’s accurate, for it was my will that made him kill my parents and he wouldn’t have done it, I’m sure, if he hadn’t loved me so much and I he.
Also, I want to clear up one point about Christine…. My weakness and my confusion of the guilt and conscience and loyalty, I did say to her on one occasion that I thought Jens might have murdered my parents. However, later on I went out of my way to make sure that she was not suspicious of him in any way. She can’t be held responsible, in no way responsible, for ever thinking that Jens killed my parents.
THE WITNESS: Mr. Gardner said, you don’t have to say anything else. Ms.
Haysom said I don’t think so. Mr. Wright then interjected and said: (125)
Q Yes, there is just one little point, when we started–and this isn’t a question to continue the last interview, it’s just about what you said there. And in the first few sentences you said that we did it together; if you’d just like to explain that.
A: I believe in my last letter of April the 18th, which date I have now memorized, I wrote to the effect I was talking about him, thinking. He threatened to give himself in, he threatened to commit suicide and it was about an argument we had because he had seen how upset I actually was about my parents’ death.
And he felt that I in some way was now turning on him and accusing him of doing something that I hadn’t wanted. And so I was trying to reassure him that in my mind we did it together. Although I wasn’t physically present, I suppose I was spiritually there.
Q: That’s fine, that’s just you wanted to clear it up, don’t you.
THE WITNESS: Mr. Gardner said, okay, the time is 2:13 a.m., June the 9th, 1986, and the end of interview.
There is Elizabeth Haysom’s confession to being the driving force behind her parents’ deaths at the hands of Jens Söring. Since June 8, 1986, Haysom has never varied from this story. She has lied about many matters, but not this.
What we see here is not a blinkered police officer determined to pin the blame on Jens Söring at all costs, but a clever detective using fair and legitimate methods to elicit a voluntary confession. Beever knows that Elizabeth is trying to minimize her role in the crime, as all suspects do. But he sows the seeds of uncertainty, telling her he’s very “satisfied” with how the investigation is proceeding. And why wouldn’t he be? Söring had just solved the case.
He listens to her tale (Söring left and killed my parents without my knowledge, I was totally surprised by the deed) for a while. Söring fans will note that she says Jens told her that he attacked her mother first, which conflicts with his confessions. I leave it to you, gentle reader, to judge how important this discrepancy is.
Let’s look at it from another angle. Is Kenneth Beever trying to pin the exclusive blame on Jens Söring here? The answer is obviously no. Elizabeth’s story at the beginning was that she had no idea Jens Söring was planning to kill her parents. She helped him buy a knife, but he told her it was only a present for her brother. Under her story, she is completely innocent of any participation in her parents’ deaths — Söring did it without her knowledge or consent. She is doing the same thing Söring did at his 1990 trial: putting forward a story which limits her guilt only to being an accessory after the fact, the least serious crime possible (g).
If Beever had been solely interested in convicting Jens Söring, he could have stopped here. But, as old-fashioned as this sounds, it appears he was actually interested in the truth. So he pressed Elizabeth to admit her real role in the crime. Before doing so, Beever calls in witnesses to make things official. Then, he pressures Elizabeth with targeted questions. Not aggressive, not threatening, but persistent. He points out the flaws in her story. She agrees that she had no reason to buy two theater tickets, and that the whole alibi idea was absurd. Even the “cold transcript”, as lawyers say, reveals her desire to come clean. And she does. Beever simply helps her deal with her feelings of guilt for her critical role the murder of her parents.
Söring and his partisans would have you believe this was a negligent interrogation in which a single-minded cop ignored a clue towards Söring’s innocence because it conflicted with his preconceived ideas. I say this was a brilliant interrogation in which an experienced and talented detective recognized the conflicted motivations of a suspect and used them — without exploitation, force, or trickery — to elicit a true confession from a willing suspect.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Every one of the dozens of appellate judges who have reviewed Söring’s conviction has agreed.