Update: I got a very nice email from Matthias Staber, the journalist who wrote the article. He explained that he did not intend to endorse Jens Söring’s innocence narrative, he was just reporting that some Söring supporters did. He also said he found that the efforts of some Söring critics — who emailed not only the event host but also the sponsors — went too far.
I have updated the post now, on 16 April 2022, to reflect his input.
So, we now finally have an answer to the question of whether Jens Söring actually gave a speech at the “Sindelfingen/Böblingen Sport and Health Weeks”. He had been announced as a featured speaker, but then the announcement was removed — and Söring was photoshopped out and replaced by a face-reader.
Yet Söring did speak. We know this because Matthias Staber, a local journalist, wrote an interesting article (g) about it. The title: “Joie de Vivre Despite Accusations and Hostility”. Staber begins by noting that “critics wanted to prevent” Söring’s speech and had contacted the event hosts and sponsors beforehand. Those critics, Staber writes, “claim that Söring has too often been given a stage without critical questions.”
Staber then notes that some Söring supporters have explicitly endorsed Söring’s innocence claims:
A prominent example of this reception [of Söring’s story by the German media] is the text “Forgotten behind bars” by journalist Karin Steinberger, published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2007, who, together with director Marcus Vetter, also leaves no doubt about Jens Söring’s innocence in the film “Killing for Love,” released in 2017: The diplomat’s son absolutely did not kill the parents of his then-girlfriend Elizabeth, Derek and Nancy Haysom, on March 30, 1985, nearly severing their heads from their torsos with a knife. “I was sentenced on June 21, 1990, for a crime I did not commit,” Jens Söring said in the Böblingen theatre: Asserting his innocence is part of every Söring appearance, whether with Richard David Precht, with Jörg Pilawa, or as a resilience coach.
Staber then gives a fair shake to Söring critics. He cites the podcast “Das System Söring“, and notes that former Söring confidante Annabel H. (who herself was influenced by Killing for Love before developing her own views) has accused Söring of manipulating the information he presents to his supporters. Such as Marcus Vetter (who has said he “loves” Söring and has declared him to be “fundamentally honest”) and Karin Steinberger.
Staber then turns to the people who complained about Söring’s appearance:
An Attempt to Harm Reputation (Ruf soll beschädigt werden)
“I would very much appreciate it if you would reconsider the announcement, the format and the implementation of the event and in particular ensure that Mr. Söring’s claims of innocence do not go unchallenged,” reads an e-mail sent in the run-up to Söring’s appearance at the Health and Sports Weeks not only to organizer Volker Siegle but also to his partners and sponsors as well as the media. The goal was clear: Damage the organizer’s reputation, prevent Söring’s appearance. And they achieved a partial victory: Jens Söring’s appearance wasn’t canceled, but the announcement for it was removed.
I’m not sure the email Staber quotes supports his claims: it is polite and reasonable. It also (a) doesn’t demand the event be cancelled and (b) doesn’t criticize the event host or sponsors. If there is any evidence supporting Staber’s talk of “harm” and “hostility”, he has kept it to himself.
Staber then turns to yours truly:
The “Health and Sports Weeks” in the tranquil small towns of Böblingen and Sindelfingen invited Jens Söring to give his standard speech there on April 8,” Söring critic Andrew Hammel write on his blog before the event: However, readers complained, and Söring was dropped.
The fact that Söring did appear in Böblingen must also have been brought to Andrew Hammel’s attention, as he stated on his blog the weekend after the event: “The audience … in the cities of Böblingen and Sindelfingen,” whose names are funny even in German, according to Hammel [note: I also called these cities “truly delightful”], must “undoubtedly [have been] very surprised” by Söring’s appearance.
Ever since his article “A Paradoxical Mixture of Cynicism and Gullibility” (g) appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2019, the former American criminal defense lawyer Andrew Hammel, now a translator in Germany, has been seen as prominent proponent of the thesis that Jens Söring is indeed a double murderer. In the meantime, a circle of Söring opponents has also gathered around this thesis, whose commitment is in no less fervent than that of the “circle of friends”.
That’s a pretty reasonable description, although I’ve got a few notes.
First, where is Söring’s “circle of friends”? I haven’t heard anything from them since Söring returned to Germany in December 2019. He’s always interviewed alone, except for once when he was pictured with his lawyer and self-described “friend” Stephan Grulert, in a short feature from the German television station ProSieben. But after complaints, that pro-Söring piece was withdrawn by ProSieben, who lamented that it didn’t satisfy their “quality standards”. I suspect the “circle of friends” no longer exists in any real sense; their place has been taken by professional PR consultants and lawyers.
Second: I admit it, I believe Söring’s guilty. But it’s not as if I’m some lone voice in the wilderness here. Other people who believe Söring’s guilty are the 12 jurors who voted to convict him, dozens of state and federal appellate judges who unanimously upheld his conviction, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Virginia Parole Board, which studied his case intensively for years, including all of the claims made in Killing for Love, and concluded Söring’s innocence claims were “without merit”. Add to that basically everyone who has ever read the report Terry Wright composed, which is available here in English and here in German. And likely everyone who has listened to the entire “Söring System” podcast.
The list goes on for page after page, but you get the picture.
I find this news article encouraging. Söring doubtless convinced some audience members with his tale of puppy love and self-sacrifice. However, Staber, unlike hundreds of German journalists before him, at least notes that Söring’s claims are controversial, that he remains a convicted double-murderer, and that many people — including case insiders — do not believe him.
It’s also encouraging that people are stepping up and complaining in advance when Söring is given a stage. Everywhere Söring appears, controversy will erupt — and that’s as it should be. Staber laments that the organizers faced criticism for inviting Söring, but that criticism is reasonable. The organizers gave an unrepentant double-murderer a stage to recite provable falsehoods, without any critical pushback or objective moderation. If that decision can’t be questioned…what can?