Comparative Law, Criminal Law, Murder, Police and Prosecutors, Soering, True Crime

Things Söring’s Lawyers Definitely Did Not Do

Taking up a theme recently discussed on allmystery, let’s look at Söring’s stay in British prisons.

When Jens Söring is asked why he confessed, he says it was to protect Elizabeth Haysom from the electric chair. This is usually enough for most journalists, who dutifully transcribe his story. Sometimes people dig a little deeper, though, and find out that Söring’s white-knight “I confessed to protect Elizabeth” story dates only from June 1990. But Soring was in prison in England for more than four years. Why didn’t he produce the white-knight story sooner? Why didn’t he retract his confessions during those four years?

Söring knows this is a problem and, being Söring, he’s got excuses and explanations ready. Let’s look at Chapter 10 of Söring’s 1995 e-book Mortal Thoughts, which still exists online despite Team Söring’s Herculean efforts to scrub it from the web. I’ll post a long excerpt to give a sense of the context, but I will highlight the crucial part in italics:

Only a few weeks later, however, my lawyers visited me at Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton to personally deliver the worst possible news: Commonwealth’s Attorney James Updike wanted to have me extradited for capital, not first degree murder, and he planned to seek the death penalty at my trial. Since he had never lost a capital case my execution was a virtual certainty, my attorneys explained. Of course they would file appeals in all the courts, but those efforts were doomed to fail because the English government supported prosecutor Updike’s extradition request over the German government’s. To please the American authorities England was even willing to breach the requirements of its own extradition treaty: before a prisoner was returned from British territory to a country where he faced capital punishment, the English government was supposed to obtain a binding assurance that the death
penalty, if imposed, would not actually be carried out. In my case, however, England had declared itself satisfied if the judge at my trial in Virginia merely read a letter to the jury, explaining that the English government objected to execution.

Like doctors informing a patient that he has a terminal disease my lawyers bent over the table in the prison visiting room and looked deeply into my eyes. A moment of silence passed before they told me, I should not get my hopes up. What happened to my partial diplomatic immunity, I asked them. Through my father I had always had a German diplomatic passport, and while I had lived in the United States that passport had carried a large American diplomatic visa. How could all that suddenly be irrelevant? Surely this must be a mistake.

The mistake was mine, according to the attorneys. Because my father was Vice-Consul at the German Consulate General in Detroit, the American government classified him as a consular staff diplomat, as opposed to a diplomatic staff diplomat at the German Embassy in Washington D.C. This distinction was completely arbitrary, of course, since all country’s foreign services transferred their officers back and forth between consular and diplomatic assignments; my father, too, had performed both types of duty during his career. But unlike most countries the United States extended diplomatic immunity only to the family members of diplomatic staff diplomats, leaving the families of consular staff officers uncovered. So I would be executed because of a technicality in diplomatic procedure, the lawyers told me.

Sitting in the cramped, shabby legal visit cubicle I tried hard to contain my
extradition request over the German government’s . To please rising panic and sense of outrage. Going to the electric chair had not been part of my promise to save Elizabeth! Five years in a German youth prison, that was to have been the extent of my “sacrifice,” as she had once called it in a letter to me. Somebody cheated somewhere but now I had to be careful, lest my mouth get me into even more trouble.

Hesitantly I asked the attorneys what my legal position would be if I were not guilty? My lawyers’ eyes immediately widened in horror: Heaven forbid the possibility of my innocence! To have any hope at all of gaining a binding assurance that the death penalty would not be imposed, it was essential to maintain my complete guilt throughout the extradition proceedings. If we conceded that I might have a defence against the murder charges, the appellate judges would rule that I needed no binding assurance, because an innocent man would presumably not be convicted and executed anyway. The legal term for this was “the necessity of proving the ‘seriousness of risk’ of execution,” the attorneys explained.

So if I wanted to live no one could know that I had not killed the Haysoms. Even then I could not help but smile at the poetic irony of my position: my innocence, if it became known, would kill me! Playing the role of the accomplice Lady Macbeth, as Liz and I discussed after she killed her parents, had already saved her from the electric chair. And continuing to play the part of the murderer Macbeth was the only hope I new had of saving my own life.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, Söring says his lawyers told him a death sentence would be a “virtual certainty” if he were extradited to Virginia. This immediately strikes a false note. This is not how lawyers speak to their clients, or to pretty much anyone. You don’t tell your client he or she is doomed, even if you privately think they are. You use cautious, hedging phrases which preserve hope: “The odds are against us, but we’ll do our best.” “We’ll hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” “This will be a big challenge, but all hope isn’t lost.” You might use stronger language if you want to convince your client to take a deal, but that’s not what’s happening here.

Second, all this nonsense about different kinds of diplomats is red-herring nonsense. Diplomatic immunity is a very limited form of immunity which protects certain kinds of diplomats from prosecution for certain kinds of crimes related to their work as diplomats. It is not a license to commit murder. And it’s especially not a license for a diplomat’s family members to commit murder. No sane country would agree to such a scheme, which is why it doesn’t exist. Further, if Söring thought he would enjoy diplomatic immunity from prosecution, then why does he also claim he wanted to be prosecuted in Germany, where he’d receive a short youth sentence? As is so often the case, Söring can’t pick a lane, so he straddles the middle: I though I could get away with the murders scot-free, and also wanted to be convicted of the murders — but only in Germany.

Further, Söring’s claim he was confused on this point is nonsense. As Terry Wright points out in his report (pp. 141-145 and elsewhere), Söring could not possibly have been confused about diplomatic immunity as of the time he confessed. He had access to one of the greatest law libraries in the world at UVA, had plenty of time to research during his international flight from the law, and had any number of opportunities to confer with his English solicitor, including twice on the very day he started confessing. And that solicitor, Keith Barker, didn’t tell him: “Go ahead and confess to murder, it’ll be no problem, you’ve got immunity!” No, what the solicitor told him, as any good criminal-defense lawyer would do, is say nothing without me being there. Not a word. We know this because the lawyer signed an affidavit saying exactly this. Söring ignored this advice, a decision which he no doubt bitterly regrets to this day.

But the biggest howler comes in the paragraph in italics. Söring, with his usual pathos, claims his lawyers’ eyes widened in horror when he even mentioned his possible innocence. The chances this actually happened are about the same as the chances OJ will find the real killer.

A bit of background. The European Court of Human Rights summarized British extradition law in its decision in Söring’s case:

“Section 10 of the Extradition Act 1870 provides that if “such evidence is produced as (subject to the provisions of this Act) would, according to the law of England, justify the committal for trial of the prisoner if the crime of which he is accused had been committed in England … the … magistrate shall commit him to prison but otherwise he shall order him to be discharged”. A magistrate must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to put the accused on trial; before committing him a prima facie case must be made out against him.”

The law’s fairly simple: If you want the English authorities to arrest American Tom in England for a crime Tom committed in the US, you have to prove to the English authorities that the evidence against American Tom would be enough to warrant holding him in prison in England, if he’d committed the crime there. In both countries (and in most countries in the world), the standard is more or less probable cause: You have to show it’s more likely than not a crime was committed, and that the defendant did it. That standard was met in Söring’s case, since the authorities had both Söring and Haysom’s confessions, among other things.

The reason Söring’s lawyers’s eyes didn’t “widen[] in horror” is that Söring’s own attitude toward his guilt or innocence was irrelevant to their strategy. First, as any defense lawyer can tell you, clients often fraudulently claim their innocence. Your duty as a criminal defense lawyer is to investigate your client’s innocence claims enough to see if there’s anything there. When there isn’t — as is usually the case — you simply proceed with the case as usual. You sculpt your own strategy based on the evidence and the law, and then explain it to your client. If your client wants to push bogus innocence claims, you simply explain why they won’t work. If your client wants to tell the press he’s innocent, you warn them not to discuss specific details of their case, but you can’t stop them claiming their innocence.

The other reason this didn’t happen is it makes no logical sense. Let’s say Söring told his lawyers he was really innocent. They would ask him why he thought so, and he would tell them. At this point, if the lawyers were convinced, they would obviously welcome the innocence story. After all, if they manage to convince the judges that Söring is innocent, he walks free. That’s the best outcome of all!

But even if the lawyers weren’t able to find conclusive evidence to free Söring, they could always claim he was innocent during the extradition proceedings. They could have said: “Your Honor, we acknowledge there is enough evidence for extradition, but we would also like to point out our client maintains his innocence.” What would the judge say in response? “Duly noted, counselor. Please proceed with your argument.” The judge doesn’t care, because what Söring says about his case is irrelevant to the legal proceedings.

Söring’s only path to an innocence claim requires retracting his confessions, but retracting his confessions could not possibly have affected his extradition lawsuit. “Retracting” a confession isn’t a legal term. If a sane, sober, intelligent adult confesses to a crime on tape after signing binding legal waiver forms in a formal setting surrounded by cops, detectives, and lawyers, that confession goes in the record. If you later regret confessing (without identifying any police misconduct) and say it was all fake, nobody cares.  Probably 50% of people who confess to crimes “take it back” once they realize how much trouble they got themselves in. If all those people were walking free, the crime rate would be double what it is now.

So even if his lawyers told various UK and European courts he’d “retracted” his confession, they would have simply turned to counsel for the USA/UK, who would have said: “Obviously, your Honors are aware that defendants often retract confessions. This has no relevance, unless the defendant is able to demonstrate that the confession was illegally obtained. Here, there is overwhelming evidence the confessions were obtained in a scrupulously legal manner. Indeed, one of them was conducted in the presence of Söring’s defense counsel, in his own native language, after he and defense counsel had conferred privately for 20 minutes. During these extradition hearings, it is not Your Honors’ job to rule on the legality of the confessions. You are only required to determine whether there is initial, prima facie evidence the confessions are admissible. That showing has been met.”

That argument would have won the day. Söring would have been extradited anyway, regardless of his innocence claim. And Söring’s lawyers surely knew this, since they were top legal talent. Their eyes, therefore, surely didn’t widen in horror, although they might have widened in bemusement.

7 thoughts on “Things Söring’s Lawyers Definitely Did Not Do”

  1. In Chapter 10 of ‘Mortal Thoughts’ Soering writes: “The truth came gushing out of me at the earliest moment that it was safe: a few days after the final extradition hearing. I had broken my right wrist on the prison recreation yard, so my writing hand was still in plaster–but that did not stop me, not after three years of silence! Over many hours I scribbled a long letter to my lawyers with my left hand, carefully printing each letter of each card.”

    I know the date that Soering broke his hand on the prison yard, he mentions it in a letter, though I don’t at the moment have it in front of me. The question is, when came the moment when Soering felt it was ‘safe” to tell his lawyers that he was actually innocent, as he claims he did here? (Interestingly, Soering does not place any blame on anyone except, one assumes himself, for what seems to be an accident, but later on he would claim that his hand was deliberately broken by another inmate.)

    One clue to dating the letter is that Soering does say “after three years of silence.” He starts by mentioning Belinda Avery, who I think is a solicitor, not a barrister, who was, as Soering says, “liason” with Colin Nicholls, QC. She has brought him good news –this in December, 1988, while he was at Brixton– that the European Commission of Human Rights will pass his case on and up to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg; and indeed the case was put before that court on January 25, 1989. Various “memorials” were submitted as the case matured, the UK memorial on March 28, 1989. Others followed. Documents were filed at the all-important oral proceedings of April 24, 1989, and follow-up documents were submitted between April 26 and June 15, 1989.

    I assume that Soering would have thought that it was’ safe’ to write this purported confession of innocence ( which sounds to me like it might just have been some thirty pages long!) to his lawyers only after oral proceedings were held (again, on April 24 and perhaps following for a few days?) Such a letter would have thrown a wrench into the presentation of the case by his lawyers, or so I would assume, but I have never even thought what this might have meant for the argument that was being adjudicated, then going forward, that Soering was guilty and should not be sent back to endure the inhumanity of the American “death row process”. In the event, none of Soering’s lawyers knew of this letter as of the oral hearings, as I understand it. There was no question of his innocence as far as they were concerned, they argued his guilt, and they prevailed.

    Whatever happened to this extremely interesting, purported ‘innocence’ letter?

    Andrew–if I may– you say that Soering’s lawyers would have most likely made a notation of this innocence claim to the court if it had suddenly come up before or even during the oral hearings, and then gone on with their previously carefully designed strategy. I understand that. Though I can only guess at the consternation it might have caused, and what, if the British prosecutors had gotten hold of it would that have meant? Couldn’t that have somehow been at least argued as an issue against the European Court’s denial of extradition even down to the last moment? Agreements were still being finalized with American authorities well into 1989.

    But Soering is telling us here that this passionate letter of innocence was sent to someone, written apparently either in German or in English, sent presumably to one of his English, or American (Neaton was there), or German lawyers, and only AFTER the Strasbourg hearings. Wouldn’t this purported letter be so extraordinary that Colin Nicholls and team, or whoever got the letter, have been ethically and legally required to put it into the record of this landmark European Court of Human Rights case? (One of the straws that caused Brexit?)

    And wouldn’t whichever lawyer received the letter have been absolutely bound to turn the letter over to Soering’s American defense team?

    I have made a sort of hobby out of this case over the years, etc. I simply don’t recall anything at all about such a letter at trial, or remember seeing any such letter in evidence. Whatever happened to it? It seems to me that it should have been there!

    And if such a letter was never written, why bring it up? I am a bit puzzled here.

    1. Hi Frank,

      Thanks, as always, for your extremely informative and entertaining comments. I just wanted to pick up on a few items from the first comment:

      “Wouldn’t this purported letter be so extraordinary that Colin Nicholls and team, or whoever got the letter, have been ethically and legally required to put it into the record of this landmark European Court of Human Rights case? (One of the straws that caused Brexit?)

      And wouldn’t whichever lawyer received the letter have been absolutely bound to turn the letter over to Soering’s American defense team?”

      I would say “no” on both counts, even assuming the letter exists. The crucial factor here is whether the letter contained admissible evidence, or could lead to admissible evidence, showing serious doubt about whether Söring committed the crime (or whether the crime he committed could be classified as a capital offense). This would be something like: “Elizabeth confessed to me and told me exactly where she buried the knives. If you go there, you will find knives with her parent’s blood and her fingerprints on them.” Or “I met Shifflett in prison, and he told me he had put the jewelry he stole from the house in a safety-deposit box only he has access to.”

      In that case, the letter would have had actual significance. But assuming it even exists, it contains only the same old unprovable, unproven white-knight story. Nothing about that story leads to admissible evidence seriously undermining the case against Söring. So the letter would just be one of those all-too-familiar writings, thousands of which are being created worldwide right now, in which suspects invent a dubious story to explain away the facts against them. And in which they “retract” their confessions. Except in rare circumstances, those letters are totally irrelevant. And they would also be protected by attorney-client privilege.

      When it comes to the extradition proceedings, the only important actors are the prosecutor and the judges. Does Söring’s claim of innocence or repudiation of his confessions make it any more or less likely he will be prosecuted in Virginia and the state will seek the death penalty? Not at all. The state had all the evidence it needed: Söring’s confessions, Elizabeth’s confessions, statements, sock-print, etc. None of that changes depending on what Söring says. Even if Söring had come out publicly in 1987 and said Beever extorted a confession from me by threatening to harm Elizabeth, that’s irrelevant. Virginia would have just said: “Your Honors, there will be a thorough hearing in Virginia to determine the admissibility of the confessions. During that hearing, Söring will have the right to put forward his side of the story. It is not for you European judges to make the final determination on the legality of the confessions. That issue is for an American judge to decide, under American law. The only issue is whether Söring is in genuine danger of facing execution. Because we fully intend to put him on trial for capital murder and seek the death penalty, he is. Even if the judge in the USA rules out the confessions, we will try to proceed with the case anyway.”

      It’s the prosecutors and judges, not the defense, who controlled the outcome of the extradition proceeding. The defense’s theory wasn’t factual (Söring didn’t do it), it was legal. And a legal defense doesn’t depend on the facts, really. Whether Söring was innocent or not, he was facing a genuine risk of execution, and that’s what the court based its judgment on.

      But in any event, please keep up the comments. I enjoy them, and I’m sure all the readers do, too.

  2. I find that I made a mistake working off some old notes which I should have double-checked in copying down Soering’s statement about when he sent the ‘innocence’ letter. He says it was “a few days after the final extradition hearing before the European Court of Human Rights, but several weeks before the judgement was even announced.” The judgment was handed down on July 7, 1989, finding that extradition would be a violation of Artic 3– cruel and unusual etc. The way I see it, the letter could have been written and given personally to a liaison solicitor such as Belinda Avery on a routine visit to Brixton. If it was to a German lawyer, it seems possible that someone in the barrister’s office could simply have mailed it out after a barrister took a glance at it as being private mail. This would mean that the British prison policy of copying all inmate letters would have been circumvented. Likely only the intended recipient would have gotten and read the letter. Or know what happened to it.

    Of course, it could have been to the British legal team headed by Colin Nicholls QC. But then, I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t have gone to Neaton sooner or later, and let him make the decision about its use.

    I assume, given what Soering said, that it could have been written about June 23, 1989.

    Now we can figure out that Soering claims he brought up the question of his actual innocence with his lawyers on or about January 15, 1987. This came early in the New Year after the interviews with the German prosecutor Herr Koenig and the defense lawyer Herr Friesen (Ogier testimony) at the bitter end of 1986 at the Essex young offender’s prison. He claims in ‘Mortal Thoughts’ he was warned not to pursue this and did not do so for three years or so, until, as he claims here, right before the decision came, he wrote, on or about June 23, 1989, what was apparently an extensive and impassioned case for his actual innocence.

    So it is a late June, 1989, letter that Soering wrote which would be helpful evidence in his case, which has gone missing. ( I cannot see the angle why Cleaveland and Neaton would not have wanted it, and used it, and therefore never got it.) Still, to me, it seems that it would have been an indication, as I cannot help suspecting routinely with Soering, that he had been planning this for a long time, now feels that the time is ripe to introduce this new demarche, and playing as usual a double-game, wants to get the letter and innocence claim into the record for the next round, and by doing this has scared the hell out of his lawyer-recipient, who sees it as still being a potentially dangerous admission. Could it even be perjury? Anyway, Soering has jumped the gun. (As usual.) The lawyer recipient, regarding the letter as personal, either destroys it or files it away in his own records. Soering finds he must wait to launch the next part of his campaign.

    I think Soering could have written such a letter.

  3. Though, of course, he didn’t write such a letter. The whole legal aspect of the structure of Chapter 10 of ‘Mortal Thoughts’ is basically fiction. As you say! But it is enmeshed in what I have found to be an intensely interesting account of what life in a British prison would be like under those circumstances. And I can see how he could create doubt about his legal case. I think he is honest enough about his fear. But he is even lying about why he was moved to F wing, the hospital wing. I think he gives us enough clues in the telling of the solicitor visits that he was not stable and was therefore moved for his own protection. (He is a malingering old convict, really. He picked up the old-timers’ habits.)

    What Chapter 10 shows us is how Soering continually used fictional techniques to reshape his case. One all- important method used elsewhere was to say again and again that EH was a drug addict and had been ‘using’ heavily while at UVA. This is not true. In fact, she was never addicted to drugs, not in England, not in Canada, not in Europe, and she has never in her life injected heroin. She showed me the insides of her arms and we talked about it. I knew she was lying. (Why don’t you ask Terry Wright what he thinks?) But once Soering had established that fiction–and most people assume this was true, even the American shrinks, that she had been out of control on drugs in the summer of 1983–he hammers away at it again and again, and this allows him to introduce another fictional character, Jim Farmer in the guise of a “drug dealer.” What Soering is saying is that Jimbo was dealing in real weight, and was a known drug dealer at UVA, with connections in D.C. This is outrageous. It is a lie. There were plenty of drugs at UVA in 1985, mostly maryjane. Farmer may have gotten some weed for his friends, possibly from Lynchburg, and he may even have gotten into some cocaine, but it might be recalled that he was a Jefferson Scholar and the center of a group of gay students, and was a leader. He was a very good guy.

    There was a party on the Saturday night that E&J were in Washington. It was the last big party of the year, really. Papers were due in. Exams were coming. There were at least eight to ten kegs of beer. Jim Farmer was very much there and he may have been one of the hosts. There was a group of laid-back gays at UVA who had a lot of friends. There would have been a large group of straights at the party. (In about 1985 a lot of things changed in attitudes towards gay folks at UVA. For the better.) Everybody in this group knew where everybody else was that Saturday night, and two of the people who were missing were Elizabeth and Jens. Later on, in September, Elizabeth and Jens had a sense that there was a growing suspicion about them. It was true, for a number of reasons. One was that Jim Farmer had called a meeting of his closest friends, many of them gay, to discuss his growing fear that they had two murderers among them. They were cautious about this. They did not know what to do. And people had liked Elizabeth. But then one girl went up to her and asked her directly: “Were you at the party on Saturday night? Where were you?” The girl was distressed–she liked Elizabeth– and I think that Elizabeth saw this. She panicked, lied, and said, yes, yes, she had been at the party. There now began a sea-change in attitudes about these two at UVA. That’s another reason they had to get out of Charlottesville. But after they left, Jim Farmer did give Elizabeth the benefit of the doubt in news articles, when he was interviewed about the two and about the situation at UVA. I got to know him, and had a number of conversations with him by telephone, but it was not Farmer who told me about the meeting of his group of friends or about the party.

    As to drugs. I am writing off the top of my head–but I recall that during police interviews in June of 1986 at Richmond, Soering was asked some very careful questions about EH’s drug use while he knew her, while they were travelling, etc. He denied that there was any drug use. His denial is in the record. They were, or seemed at first, to be a very impressive couple, as one student told me, when he got to know them in the summer of 1985, and she was not then at all on drugs. In fact, they were taking some intense summer school courses, eating out, and driving around in a new VW convertible. (He came to dislike them over an incident.) And one ought not to forget that Soering was the adult child of an alcoholic. He would not have been able to stand Elizabeth if she had been doing drugs. What I am saying here is that Soering’s most intense fiction writing has been to recreate EH as a drug addict. She wasn’t. (It was the BPD. It was mental.)

    Which, if you think about it, is worse.

    It is said nowadays that one must take control of the narrative. Well, yeah, OK. I suppose social media changed things? Whatever. Anyway, Soering began to take control of the narrative only when he finally lost out in court. He realized that he was backed to the wall, and had to use his talent at fiction writing in an attempt to bamboozle the American media, newspapers and television, particularly the media in Charlottesville, to begin with. He did so. It was surprisingly easy! He beat them at their own game. He took the local media down and moved effectively against the American national. And now it’s the German media. It is insane.

    1. FrankMcCollough2, seems to me, that the german media is not very interested in the Söring case, for several reasons:
      1. Most Germans believe anyway, that the American criminal justice system is unfair and the sentences are way to long. So the Söring case is nothing new.
      2. And most Germans think (me too), that 33 years in prison are enough whatever he did and he is free now. Means the case is closed.
      3. Andrew Hammels articles in the F.A.Z. should have “immunized” the media here. The F.A.Z. is one of the most serious german newspapers.
      4. Mr. Söring appeared not be very sympathetic here:
      There are offending letters from him to the German government as well as to private people who just asked him critical questions.
      His demand, to hold Elisabeth (who had served as long as he did) in prison until she tells the “truth”, was an outrage in the eyes of those Germans who had a closer look at his case. He seemed to have a middle-age understanding of justice, when “thumb-screws” were used to get the “truth”.
      5. Maybe the biggest problem for Söring is, that he can’t tell the story, he told for 30 years: Falsely accusing another person of a serious crime is punishable here. So he tries to change his story again, but will that buy someone ? (btw: the ZDF has withdrawn the infamous Lanz show episode from its mediathek meanwhile)

      If he wants to be a “public person” in Germany (writing books etc.) and i would be one of Sörings advisors, i would tell him to consider the Lance Armstrong option. Most Germans wouldn’t mind.
      We shall see ….

      1. It was Soering and his team who got well lodged into the public media ‘record’ a spurious fact, stated, by among others, ZDFInfo, that: “For more than 33 years, Jens Soering, a German, was imprisoned in the USA–convicted of murdering…etc.”

        This is not an accurate statement. But it is a good, if small, example how Soering has altered perceptions of the case.

        What E&J did in Western Europe and Britain would be called “forging and uttering” in Virginia, and is a Class 5 felony which could have gotten them in the US from 5 to 10 years in prison and a large fine. It needs to be kept in mind. They served a short sentence in Britain in order for the authorities to get them extradited as soon as possible. This whole subject is important to understanding these two. They began intensely to plan a career of fraud during the summer of ’85 though they had discussed it even before the murders. I have never at any point seen Soering try to put on the brakes. They created necessary documents in Thailand. They had false identities when they began the fraud in England. There seems to be a calculated effort by his supporters to overlook criminal intent; of stepping over the line and liking being over the line. (It was exciting.) It also is highly revealing about the dilapidated mental condition of both of them.

        Soering and Haysom wrote a lot of letters to each other when they were locked up in England. A number of them became evidence. British authorities could legally copy them. On Saturday, June 14, 1986, Jens wrote Elizabeth from Highbury Corner Court. He says he does not know how long he will stay there. “People have spent 2-3 weeks in a row in these lightless catacombs. I feel like a character in some Russian novel I have never read. There are moments, many more than I expected, in which I find all this highly comical.

        “You must forgive me for being a bit diffuse and disorganized, so here’s the next topic: Thank you for the sweet nothings you whispered in my ear outside the courtroom. It was a very, very sweet effort and, I fully realize, a “nothing.” If you know more than I do, good. Otherwise, I will not be keeping myself aloft with false hopes. It seems I am surviving without them, anyway, but I do appreciate and love you for giving what little could be given (a little hope) in such a desperate situation. You are a wonderful person.”

        “I also want you to know that “if only’s are not coming up and are not bothering me. I love you and am glad we met. I hope you feel the same way but would not blame you AT ALL if that is not the case. I do not know how much more can be said on the subject…” He does go on to say more on the subject.

        “Excuse my inadequacy. Which reminds me–although there are no “if only’s”, I do regret having done this very much. Inadequacy does not begin to describe it; though I don’t regret meeting you, it would have been better for you if you had not met me…”

        On June 23, 1986 Jens writes.

        “My darling Elizabeth,

        Finally, I am at Ashford…I had a chance to read your letter to my acquaintance and found it most amusing–don’t you go sneaking off with one of those Pentonville lads (or Holloway girls)! On second thought–and that’s already the second one in this letter–do what feels right for you. I feel ridiculous–having wrecked your life, I majestically allow you to play with the shards, to amuse yourself with what little I’ve left you.”

        The ‘acquaintance’ is Schroeder, whose post-Ashford career and background Andrew has so thoroughly uncovered.

        Soering goes on: ” I can already see that remark drawing an angry response from you. I am not engaging in self-flagellation, sweetie–promise. Perhaps, I should. It is my complete detachment from my own fortune that fascinates and sometimes worries me. Instead of being “gutted” I am “easier about it” that some people here are about a couple of months. It’s bloody ridiculous, really. My acquaintance, as everyone else, was ignorant of the “larger picture” and was completely wrecked. I just smiled. Anyway, the point of all this is not to make you feel bad, which I hope it will not–I am trying to tell you that the “I’ve wrecked your life” remark was not gratuitous masochism mixed with self pity but simply reality as I see it.”

        “That reality which I see (or think I see) may be completely fictional–or ‘hallucinatory’, I suppose the professionals would say. But even the obvious possibilities which our case suggests BESIDES the one involving Annie–ie. those possibilities connected with white coats and soft walls–don’t bother me. Perhaps that complete resignation is a symptom, or perhaps a final proof, of those latter possibilities…”

        He decides it isn’t.

        On July 8, 1986, Jens writes: “My spirits have improved so drastically because the German guy here is keeping me in high style, with German papers and magazine as well as tons of sweeties… He comes by my cell for approx 2 hours a day and we speak of this and that at top volume to annoy my dense cell mate…” Soering discuses the English cell mate as being a bit mental. Then he talks more about Schroeder.

        “I just can’t believe that the German bloke, who’s incredibly successful (you would start crying if you know how much he’s earned by the age of 17–a hint is that it’s got 7 figures in Germany), highly intelligent in his chosen field (fraud), and a fairly likeable person in general is in the same prison with the ridiculous collection of losers, idiots, and psychologically ill riff-raff that likes to think of itself as Britain’s underworld! Ten pound burglaries! Stealing car-stereos–what a joke! I’m not sure where we fit in–as fraudsters, we weren’t bad at all for beginners, I now know; and with what I’ve learned in the “academy of crime”, we would be very good indeed once we got out–if we went back to crime, which I don’t think we would have–well, not straight away, anyway. As for “the other little mishap in our lives,” the mishap that makes all considerations of our future, criminal or otherwise, completely beside the point–well, I am afraid that puts us squarely amongst the idiots and the psychologically ill, unfortunately.”

        I think Soering’s remark is very interesting that his new young German friend, Schroeder, and other inmates, were ” completely wrecked” when they told him, as they surely must have done, that they had seen the headlines in the London papers. And Soering’s answer to their questions, that ” I just smiled” is almost deliberately provocative. Was that what “wrecked” them? With a smile–or was it a grin– he acknowledged two murders?

  4. FRANKMCCULLOUGH2, sentences don’t sum up mathematically in Germany.
    Example: A guy commits a manslaughter (10 years here), injures someone else severly (4 years) and commits a fraud (3 years). That would NOT add up to a sentence of 17 years. Perhaps he would get 12, if he’s lucky maybe even 10 (the highest of each single sentence).

    And: The time, someone is arrested during an investigation is always substracted from the sentence. Means: If someone is sentenced to serve 10 years, but he was arrested 1 year ago, he has to serve still 9 years (always with possible parole after 2/3 of the sentence)

    So Sörings 33 years are really not too less in our view.

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