As is well known, Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom wrote numerous letters to each other in addition to their joint travel diary entries. These were all discovered upon their arrest in England and carefully read by investigators. It is true enough that the letters do not contain explicit statements which unequivocally acknowledge committing the murders, but there are still passages stepping precariously close to the edge and from which quite compelling inferences may reasonably be drawn.
Unsurprisingly, the most damaging passages in the letters are never mentioned by Soering’s closest supporters, whose only interest is in overlooking them. Thus, in the German-made documentary film Killing for Love, for example, we are treated to various extracts that tend to focus rather more often on the overtly sexual content in their correspondence. These were presumably thought to liven things up a little and add some cheap titillation – as well as distracting from the much more relevant issues.
We also see in the Report on Investigation by Private Investigator David Watson, dated 10 September 2012, that there was nothing in the letters of any particular interest or significance:
“5. Letters. Diary, etc–The letters and diary produced at trial contained no confessions. They provide no basis for determining whether Soering committed the crime or merely covered it up.”
And similarly, Sheriff J. E. “Chip” Harding in his Report to Governor Terry McAuliffe of 2 May 2017 felt that there was little to move him one way or another in the letters. He certainly didn’t wish to be drawn into speculation, of course, even though the rest of his report was packed with speculation:
“Updike spoke to the jury about the letters. He interpreted what he thought Haysom and Soering were saying to each. Although I agree there are suspect passages, I do not see any outright admissions to murder. If you ask my opinion if the letters indicated pointed stronger towards Haysom or Soering committing the murders I would be at a lost [sic]…
For the purposes of developing a position on Soering’s guilt or innocence, I am not moved in either direction by the letters because there would be too much speculation on my part on exactly who was trying to say what and for what motivation.”
So did they miss anything?
On 14 June 1986, from prison, well into the body of a long letter, Jens Soering wrote this to Elizabeth Haysom:
“Excuse my inadequacy. Which reminds me – although there are no “if onlys,” 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 had you not met me. Enough self-recriminations – they are so bloody useless and beside the point, they make me smile. I’m not asking for forgiveness. I don’t deserve it, and I certainly don’t want a letter from you taking it all on yourself. Such a letter would piss me off tremendously. All along, I made the mistakes – and more or less willingly, you were dragged along…”
On 23 June 1986, Soering also wrote:
“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 [prison] lads (or Holloway girls)! On second thought – and that’s already the second one 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 I’ve left you…”
These letters became Commonwealth’s Exhibits #354 and #355.
It is very, very hard indeed to explain away these passages as meaning anything other than exactly what they say. According to every account Soering has given since his return to Virginia, he was the totally innocent dupe who just threw away his scholarships, money, security, car, home and life prospects, all for the love of a deranged girlfriend who had, he alleges, so recently murdered her parents. If that explanation were even remotely close to being truthful –
What is it he regrets having done?
Why does he acknowledge making the mistakes in his letter?
Why was she just “dragged along”, more or less willingly?
How exactly did such a totally innocent person manage to wreck Elizabeth’s life, leaving her with the shards to play with?
These are deeply serious questions requiring equally serious answers and evasive linguistic contortions will not suffice. But such things have to be rapidly glossed over by Soering and his massed ranks of supporters because they’re so terribly inconvenient to his authorised version of events.
Note: Grateful acknowledgement is owed to the well informed person in Charlottesville who first pointed out the passages in the letters cited above.
A decade later, however, having already embarked on his feverish attempt to repudiate and resile from almost everything he said in England, Soering was still in full retreat.
Mortal Thoughts was his own entirely revised account of what had happened, written (he says) in 1994 and uploaded to the internet in 1995. This is a very significant document because it can be seen to provide the essential underpinning for so many demonstrable lies that he was to promulgate in the following decades. (It was actually removed from its site on the internet but, after much searching, was finally rediscovered on an archive site.) It requires long and detailed scrutiny, which it will most assuredly be receiving in a future post.
Soering and Haysom also kept a joint diary on their travels. One entry, written by Elizabeth, said this:
“The case is about to be solved. Perhaps fingerprints on coffee mug used by Jens in Bedford interview gave him away…”
Clearly this represented a major problem for Soering. He was aware of the entry, so how does he explain that away?
“Elizabeth eventually admitted the truth to me. The passage about my fingerprints had been intended as insurance, in case we were arrested! Because Liz would again be the prime suspect after our escape to Europe, she wanted to ensure that there would be seemingly objective evidence which pointed at me as the killer. My fear of being traced on the run through my fingerprints had given her the idea to include a paragraph about leaving fingerprints on the Bedford police’s coffee mug.”
Mortal Thoughts (page 91).
Ah, it was just insurance! Easy, isn’t it? In Soering’s version everything has a satisfactory explanation, one which always leads to a complete lack of blame on his part.
One might well think that being fairly and squarely identified as the murderer in their diary would have caused Soering to be furious and hugely resentful. At the very least he would surely have been alarmed enough to demand that the offending page be removed and destroyed. Wouldn’t he?
Nope, not in his reinvented world. In fact he claims that he felt only “guilt” for giving her cause to doubt him, and apologised profusely:
“Somehow I must have given Elizabeth reason to doubt me…
As proof of my willingness to “confess” I even agreed to leave the passage about my fingerprints in the diary.” (p. 92.)
A noble gesture! This is almost touching in its straight-faced attempt to test intelligent people’s credulity to breaking point. To slightly misquote Oscar Wilde, you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.
And there’s much more nonsense and fantasy to come from Mortal Thoughts in due course.
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