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

A Bleg: Did Söring Attack Elizabeth Haysom in Court?

I wanted to briefly address one of the more interesting incidents in the Söring saga, but one which I still haven’t been able to confirm with as many sources as I’d like.

Both during her 1987 trial and her testimony in Jens Söring’s 1990 trial, Elizabeth Haysom testified that Söring was so enraged by her decision to allow her extradition to the USA and to plead guilty there that he tried to strangle her in open court. The context: Both were in English prisons in 1987, awaiting extradition to the USA. They appeared together, as long as it was assumed that both of them would fight against extradition to Virginia.

However, at some time in late 1986 or early 1987, Haysom decided she would “waive” extradition — that is, she would agree to be extradited back to Virginia to face trial. This decision would have been extremely alarming to Söring, because he would know that her returning to Virginia would greatly increase the chances of her potentially testifying against him.

Here’s Haysom’s testimony from 1987 about one of these court hearings in London (p. 213):

“Q Did Jens put any pressure on you to contest it [i.e., to try to stop her extradition to the USA]?

A Yes, he did.

Q And again, was that through his letters to you?

A Yes, through his letters and also at an appearance in February in court he made a scene about it. And after that he was handcuffed in court with me and kept away from me because of his outbreak.”

And here’s her more detailed account from Söring’s trial, on Day 9, pp. 90-91):

“Q May the 8th, 1987. Well before we get to that, I wanted to ask you, was there any reaction from the defendant to your decision of pleading guilty, and I’m talking about reaction in person between the two of you.

A Yes. The second to last time that Jens and I went up for extradition together, we saw each other in the courtroom we were sitting in the dock together, there was debate going on in the courtroom about my barrister had asked for the cases to be separated so that I could be extradited, and his barrister was saying that for various reasons that they could not be separated, and I was asked — the Judge asked me how I felt, and I said that I wanted to waive [i.e., not challenge] my extradition. And Jens grabbed me by the throat in the courtroom, and he had to be removed. And the final time that we appeared together, he had to be handcuffed and escorted in the courtroom, and at that time the cases were separated, and I appeared my final time on April 15th.”

Did this really happen? I tend to think it did. The primary evidence is that Elizabeth Haysom testified about this twice in open court, and nobody, as far as I can tell, ever disputed her account. I haven’t re-read the transcript lately, but I remember keeping an eye out while reading it to see if anyone — especially Söring — said “No, that’s not true, that didn’t happen.”

The other reason I find it plausible is that Söring quite obviously still harbors an obsessive hatred for Elizabeth Haysom. Even in this most recent interview, which came out just today (and is, unfortunately, another journalistic clusterfuck), all you have to do is listen to Söring’s tone of voice when he talks about her. When they met in court and it became clear to him that she was going to voluntarily return to the USA and almost certainly testify against him, his rage must have been titanic. I can easily imagine him leaping over a bench and attacking her. And she has stated twice that he did so, in open court, in front of millions of people (if we include the TV audience) who could have disproven what she said.

Now to my bleg: The hearing in London apparently happened in February of 1987, assuming the above dates are accurate. I don’t know whether extradition hearings were public in the UK at this time. If they were, and if reporters were there, there would be likely be some record of this incident in the British press. Yet I can’t find anything. Does anyone who is reading this have any insight into this? Perhaps someone has access to a press database which might help shed some light? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

4 thoughts on “A Bleg: Did Söring Attack Elizabeth Haysom in Court?”

  1. Andrew,

    Please see page 214 of Ken Englade’s ‘Beyond Reason’. About the woman she had never seen before who tried to attack her… This incident was not in the next morning’s London Times, Englade noted. This was at Kingston Crown Court on Dec. 17, 1986.

    Soering wrote her on Dec. 18, 1986, from HMYO Prison Chelmsford, Essex, obviously after he had been returned there. There is no mention of this incident, of course, because it didn’t happen. (My take.) He noted that she looked as if she had been ill, when they met again. He had been long looking forward to seeing her again.If he had watched something like this happen to her in court he would have been in despair. (Let’s face it. This is a love story.)

    The letter starts: Dear Sweetie, Stop being such a bloody idiot. I do not know why you think you have to do this to yourself and me,but stop it and stop it now.”

    In this letter Soering gives his arguments why she should not accept extradition. It was obviously being discussed in court the day before.

    And we know that legal issues about their case that finally reached the matter of extradition had been discussed in letters between them for quite some time. Jens’s arguments in the Dec. 18 letter are legal arguments, but then there is something else. He feels it is the “abandoning of their love”. I conclude that he doesn’t want her to leave. If she leaves, there will be no more letters. It will really be over.

    There are several letters in January and February, and they are loving. When was this incident supposed to have happened? If, on May 8, 1987–and just don’t have some of this in front of me–but if he flew off the handle and became enraged during the hearing at Bow Street Court, and actually tried to strangle her, why did the members of the extradition squad with whom I talked at Bedford not notice this? They were studying Elizabeth Haysom very carefully. They considered her to be a hard woman. There must have been at least five or six Scotland yard officers involved in the case in court that day. And the London papers were all over this case. I think the first up-to- date photo of EH ever in the press appears in the Friday, June 6, 1986 Daily Mail under the headline “Black Magic Love.” Was that the one that Barker suddenly threw down on the table in front of Jens?

    And why would Jens suddenly explode over the extradition issue? We have in writing that he knew all about it, had talked with his lawyers about it, was concerned about it, in part because he believed she was making a mistake, but had also specifically noted that her case did not really legally affect his case.

    And what really would affect his case was attacking someone in court. Besides, I don’t think he would ever try to hurt her, even now. I can’t help thinking Jens was for a long time like Leopold to Loeb. Leopold never got over Loeb.

    I can’t help noticing that one characteristic of EH is that she always dramatically shapes and overworks her stories. She is usually the victim at the center. Another thing is that there are almost always no witnesses.

    I keep thinking that I have somewhere a copy of a letter from Jens–it must be one of the last ones, where he mentions briefly that he is puzzled why he was handcuffed at a hearing at the Bow Street court. That’s easy. She said something and it was done. The police had no choice but to protect her, and nothing was said. It was no big deal. They were prisoners.

    So no, Jens Soering did not attack Elizabeth Haysom in any court, anywhere, ever.

  2. I think he did try to strangle her in open court.
    We know he could become suddenly enraged. His hands started shaking uncontrollably during lunch with Elizabeth and the Haysoms.
    Both psychiatrists in England, Hamilton and Bullard independantly agreed he was mentally ill with an impaired appreciation of reality at the time of the murders.
    Englade, on page 215, also says Soring verbally threatened Elizabeth when they appeared in court in February 1987. And he writes that he must have been even more threatening because he was handcuffed the next time they appeared in court.
    And a couple of weeks after their last contact, a woman visited Elizabeth on behalf of Jens and tried to persuade her to take full resoonsibility for the killings.
    I think Jens was corresponding with female groupies who did his bidding, including attacking Elizabeth.
    And when that failed, he lost it and attacked her himself.

  3. To look ahead from the December 18 protest letter, on February 9, Jens wrote Elizabeth from Brixton saying “Well, thank goodness, I’ve finally gotten a letter from you! He tells her what he has been reading, and then, exclaims “Christ, I’ve about run out of room, and I haven’t even told you I love you!” He concludes “I wish I could crawl in bed with you on these cold nights…” and starts to get a little freaky before the prison allotted space runs out.

    So as late as February 9, 1987, they are still writing each other and the tone is loving both ways, it seems. Interestingly, Jens wants to know what “N.A.” is. This is Narcotics Anonymous. We know that contact was made with them while Elizabeth was at Highbury Corner, by Johnny Horton’s testimony. Jens would have been surprised at this, since he knew Elizabeth had not done any drugs by his own reckoning since March of 1985, and, in fact, I don’t think he had ever seen her do drugs, at all, maybe some weed, definitely not anything like cocaine or heroin. By my own reckoning, she had never injected heroin. Probably not cocaine either. Elizabeth was setting up some testimony to be used in her defense when she contacted N.A.

    I have located Jens’s December 7, 1986 letter to her in which he says “Whatever it is that seems to be bothering you so, please do write–and certainly something seems to be bothering you recently, I can sense it in your letters and I just feel it, as well. You wrote me that the wonderful thing about our relationship was that we could tell each other ANYTHING. Please write me, then.” Later in the letter he mentions how much he is looking forward to seeing her in court. “At long, long last.”

    Then, on December 11, Elizabeth does write back. This letter has a caption at the top of it, “With Love and Guilt.” She thanks him for the letter of the 7th, to start with, so we know where we are.

    She tells him: “I don’t want to contest extradition and I also intend (if I can) to plead ‘guilty’. I’m tired of being the ‘baddy’, the witch, and defending myself or even rationalizing it. I throw up my hands and say–‘you win’ –you’re quite right, I’m totally evil and completely crackers.”

    She goes on quite a lot about guilt in her usual histrionic way. Which he then will respond to in his December 18 letter. Concluding: “Sweetie, WE ruined our lives–together…” She does not seem entirely stable in her December 11 letter and his sense that she is giving up too easily to some far too serious charges is understandable.

    I do not see any dangerous hidden anger ready to erupt in these letters, of which I have only given the briefest sketch.

    Now, there is the whole question of the legal arguments, the lawyers involved, the hearings, which were at two different courts in London.

    The Lynchburg News and Daily Advance, as it was called then, now the News and Advance, had sent reporters to London on the case in June of 1986. The case had exploded with the arrest of Elizabeth and Jens at Kew subway stop.

    There are many articles–probably more than fifty by several different reporters– covering how the legal process played out and ended with Elizabeth’s extradition on May 8, 1987. The reporters had made contact with British solicitors and police officers and were able to telephone and get accounts of the progress of the case and also how it went in court, both at the brief December 17 hearing at Kingston Crown Court and later at Bow Street Court on an entirely different kind of legal procedure, extradition, in which Gibson Grenfell represented the United States.

    There is an article in the News and Advance, ‘Haysom confession read in court ; extradition near’, by April Adler on April 16, 1987 which covers the hearing. Adler quotes a British reporter, John Worsnop. with the National News Agency, who was there. Worsnop described Elizabeth’s appearance and behavior in court. “She just sat stonily faced, she really didn’t look up at all, she was looking at her feet.”

    This sounds similar to her hard appearance described to me by one or two of the extradition squad who were there.

    It was a normal and orderly hearing! So was the one at Kingston Crown Court. I think Beever and Barker would have been at that one. The news accounts identify the lawyers and law firms.

    I recommend seeing if a subscription to the Lynchburg News and Advance allows one to rummage through their Wayback Time machine, or whatever they call it, or do you have to pay per photo- copy. The reporting by this newspaper and by the Roanoke Times will give a very good overview of the whole case. There is another article by Adler on 25 April 1987, ‘Soering won’t go to Germany’.

    There is absolutely nothing to these fantasies of Elizabeth Haysom except to reveal how sick she was then, perhaps still is, and how again and again she attempted to disrupt and confuse any clear understanding of who she really might be.

  4. The hearing at Bow Steet Court where Jens purportedly tried to strangle Elizabeth was on February 27, 1987. April Adler had an article titled “Haysom extradition delayed again,” in the Lynchburg News and Advance the next day. The police officer who informed her that the case had been remanded to the 27th of March was Sgt. Richard Swarbrick. The hearing was said to be brief. Sgt. Swarbrick noted nothing unusual about the hearing. He told Adler that on March 27 a date for an extradition hearing would be set.

    Det. Sgt. D. C. Cutts described the March 27 hearing to Adler by telephone. “There was a little kiss and cuddle before they went into court. They were standing next to each other waiting to go in. It was just a quick kiss and a cuddle before they went in.” Was Jens handcuffed at that moment? Or did he expect the handcuffs to be taken off once inside the court and they were not, apparently even when he was in the dock?

    Richard Neaton, in his rebuttal to Updike on this point, had Elizabeth read a highlighted portion of her letter to Jens written that same day, March 27, apparently immediately after she had gotten back to Holloway. The section she read was simple enough: “Why have they started handcuffing you in the dock, it seemed a bit heavy.” (Page 158 of June 14, 1990.)

    If Jens had tried to strangle Elizabeth in court a month before, would there have been a cuddle and a kiss? Would it have been necessary for her to write him from Holloway about handcuffs, or for that matter, to write him about anything at all ever again?

    It strikes me being significant that none of the Scotland Yard police officers answering April Adler’s questions and commenting on the legal strategy of the case saw anything unusual in these hearings. Just as the reporters saw nothing out of the normal.

    Elizabeth Haysom was the only defendant in the dock during the April 15 extradition hearing. The cases had been separated. “Haysom confession read in court; extradition near.” This article came out in the News and Advance the next day.

    What I find remarkable about Elizabeth Haysom’s May 14, 1987 statement to Investigator Gardner at the Bedford jail –which runs some 57 pages long– was that in it she makes no mention of Jens’s purported attempt to strangle her in court while they were in the dock together. She does manage to systematically develop defamation against the German embassy and against Mrs. Massie, but there is nothing as far as I can see about this incident in the dock on February 27, 1987. She tells Gardner that the German embassy sent her money and books and also smuggled into Holloway to her three grams of heroin! And she does discuss the threats that Jens had made against her.

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