Mortal Thoughts, part II: Mental Health and Sexual Failure

It was originally intended that Mortal Thoughts would be a two-part post, but it will now be extended to three parts so as to cover relevant issues a little more fully. This post will be looking in some detail at –

(1) Jens Soering’s imputations about Elizabeth Haysom’s mental state as compared to his own; and

(2) his false claims about his (and their) sexual activity.

It shouldn’t need to be stated that neither issue says anything directly about his guilt or innocence in relation to the Haysom murders. But in a case where so much stands or falls on the basis of his credibility they nevertheless say a great deal about his inability to tell the truth over many years, from which appropriate conclusions may properly be drawn. That is important in this context and yet again starkly shows him to be a relentless liar.


Soering’s imputations about Elizabeth Haysom’s mental state as compared to his own

Jens Soering, both implicitly and explicitly, wishes to portray himself as mentally entirely healthy and at the same time portray Elizabeth Haysom as a deranged and homicidal wreck (as does Gail Ball, one of his lawyers). Soering indulges in a kind of projection whereby so much of what he says about her is in fact far more directly applicable to him, not least his near-total inability to tell the truth about anything since 1990.

What was his actual state of mind at the time of the murders? This is what he admitted to the German prosecutor on 30 December 1986:

Prosecutor: “You are supposed to have said that you felt during the trip to Lynchburg hatred and anger for the later victims, the parents of your girlfriend, because they exercised pressure on your girlfriend to end the relationship. Is that so?”

Soering: “That is right without doubt. But this concerns a general feeling which was building up in me anyway over months…” [Page 32]

Prosecutor: “Did you feel humiliated by Mr Haysom or was it more your fury that you did not get any further? Was it a fury having been treated like a small child, or a fury for not being up to the situation anymore?”

Soering: “In reality it is both… A collective rage arose which resulted from the situation which was already months if not years old. That all erupted now.” [35-36]

Soering: “The way I see it, to say it cruelly, for many years certain problems have built-up inside me… and that because of the alcohol all these things erupted and the entire anger and all these problems were discharged.” [41]

So mental problems had been building up in his head for a long time, which is hardly a surprise. People who are mentally healthy tend not to kill and butcher people they scarcely know in what was described as “a crime of hate.”


In prison in England he appears to have had a major mental breakdown, which he denies, preferring instead to present the actions of the prison authorities as purely malevolent and taken for illegitimate reasons:

Shortly after my lawyers filed the initial petition for appeal to the European Commission in August, 1988, however, the prison authorities unexpectedly transferred me from that small Category A cell block to F-Wing, the huge psychiatric section of Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton. Once there I discovered that, on the same day I was moved, a Sikh terrorist… was now living in one of the four Category A hospital cells adjoining F-Wing. Yet neither one of us was physically sick, mentally ill, suicidal or on medication.

Why had the authorities isolated us in the most stressful section of H.M.P. Brixton, among mentally disturbed inmates who screamed and barked and babbled all day and night? The prison doctors refused to give us an explanation, but the Sikh terrorist and I soon figured it out. He had just filed an appeal against his extradition… And my case had just passed to the European Commission, where the English government had much less influence than at all the English courts which had turned down my previous appeals. So the authorities had moved us to the prison’s hospital/F-Wing simply to make life a little less comfortable for us, to encourage us to drop our appeals! Throwing sane people into lunatic guards, for political purposes – I once thought such things happened only in dictatorships.”

Mortal Thoughts (page 158).

Oh, dear. The truth of that situation was as different as it could possibly be, as explained in the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, relying on medical evidence submitted, rather ironically, by his own legal team:

On 5 August 1988 the applicant was transferred to a prison hospital where he remained until early November 1988 under the special regime applied to suicide-risk prisoners.

According to psychiatric evidence adduced on behalf of the applicant (report dated 16 March 1989 by Dr D. Somekh), the applicant’s dread of extreme physical violence and homosexual abuse from other inmates in death row in Virginia is in particular having a profound psychological effect on him. The psychiatrist’s report records a mounting desperation in the applicant, together with objective fears that he may seek to take his own life.” (Paragraph 25.)

Mounting desperation…” This is probably not so very remarkable in all the circumstances, but he still felt the need to lie about it and hope that no one would ever bother to check his claim. In that respect his luck has finally run out. Soering was isolated and placed among mentally disturbed inmates because he was manifestly one of them.

Elizabeth Haysom, by contrast, has never been placed in a psychiatric ward.


It should also be observed that, while Jens Soering speaks politely about the “Sikh terrorist” in Mortal Thoughts, he wasn’t always so well disposed towards people of different ethnicity in his private correspondence. In a handwritten letter of 21 May 1986 he presumed to give Elizabeth Haysom advice on how to conduct herself in prison:

Be quiet, shy, self deprecating. Speak only when spoken to, but then be friendly but not too open. Strong silent types are appreciated. A nigger bopped me on the head w/his plastic jug and I just grinned. He ran off and about 15 people instantly became my admirers, offering to beat him up for me, etc. Smiles everywhere, especially on my face – I’m not going to be bothered again in that wing…”

This place is so old and horrific, it’s going to be torn down at Christmas. It’s enough to make you cry, but I just laugh, all the niggers bitching and hitting one another and the screws [prison staff] – some truly wonderful fights – they make it so tough on themselves…”

Commonwealth’s Exhibit #351.


At page 145 of Mortal Thoughts Soering recounts that his lawyers hired consultant forensic psychiatrists Dr John Hamilton and Dr Henrietta Bullard. He says that they acted as neutral, unbiased “friends of the court”. This is untrue. While they certainly had a professional and legal duty not to be untruthful in what they said, Soering’s parents were their paymasters, and like any hired experts they were expected to provide evidence that was specifically helpful to him. If not, why bother to pay their no doubt very substantial fees?

In a typical attempt at verbal sleight of hand Soering says this:

Since the doctors reached the same medical conclusion I will quote here only the December 15, 1986, report of Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist Henrietta Bullard, M.B., B.S., M.R.C.Psych., D.P.M.”

To anyone sufficiently familiar with his technique this sentence sounds alarm bells loud enough to ring from a cathedral. It is correct that both doctors ultimately reached the same conclusion, but Soering would undoubtedly have wished to bury some of the information contained in Dr Hamilton’s 10-page report, so he mentions the report in passing and then quickly moves on, hopeful that no reader would ever get to see it. He was unduly optimistic. Hamilton was in fact much the more highly qualified of the two psychiatrists, and it was his opinion that Soering was suffering from –

an abnormality of mind (arising from disease of the mind) [so] as to substantially impair his mental responsibility for his acts.”

Naturally he doesn’t want people to read that, so the full sentence isn’t reproduced anywhere in Mortal Thoughts. No such thing was ever said about Haysom.

And his “acts” being murder, of course.


We should look now at what Soering has to say about Elizabeth Haysom’s mental state. He is quite desperate to twist and distort the truth in his attempt to show her in the worst possible light.

To start with, a more minor – and totally fatuous – attempted slur before getting to the bigger ones. When he saw her on the witness stand at his trial in 1990, he says:

More than anything I wanted an opportunity to talk with Liz, so I could discover how I had fallen under her spell in 1984 through 1986… But of course such a conversation was impossible now, as I well knew. In any case it was doubtful that she could give me the answers to my questions, since my attorneys had learned from Elizabeth’s prison medical files that she had been prescribed psychotropic drugs. Having observed the terrible effects of these so-called medicines on other inmates in England, I was almost glad that one part of Liz’s personality had remained undamaged…”

Mortal Thoughts (page 181).

What does he mean by these terrible “psychotropic drugs”? A psychotropic drug is merely “any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior.” One of the best-known of these, Fluoxetine, has the trade name “Prozac” and is commonly prescribed for depression, which is the only issue here. The National Institute for Mental Health reports that an estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2016, while U.S. Department of Justice figures indicate that 21% of prison inmates suffer from depression, which is not a startling revelation.

Depression can be extremely severe with an attendant risk of suicide, but it is more often at the milder end of the spectrum and can be treated quite effectively with appropriate psychotropic drugs. Sufferers commonly live otherwise perfectly normal lives and are very rarely the hopeless basket cases Soering is trying so hard to imply. Many of us will have either experienced temporary periods of depression or will know a close friend or family member who has.


But Soering was still only warming up. He then turned his attention to the actual medical diagnoses of the various doctors involved, both in England and Virginia.

Pausing for a moment, it is instructive to note here his contradictory statements in Mortal Thoughts about the role of the doctors in England. At page 31 he claims that –

The doctors acted as neutral “friends of the court”; unlike the American system, English judges appoint expert witnesses whose findings are accepted by both prosecution and defence.”

This is totally untrue and relies on readers’ lack of familiarity with the English legal system. English judges most certainly do not appoint expert witnesses; they are appointed – and paid – by the parties who seek to benefit from their evidence. And it is not at all unusual for one side or the other to vigorously dispute the experts’ interpretation of the evidence. They are not neutral parties in the proceedings.

At page 145, perhaps having forgotten what he said earlier, he acknowledges what really happened:

One of my parents’ first actions was to hire private lawyers for me, and they in turn asked two of England’s most senior forensic psychiatrists to examine both Liz and me…”

There he is correct: the doctors were hired by his lawyers; they were not court-appointed. Dr Hamilton, as Medical Director at the famous (or notorious) Broadmoor Hospital, could fairly be described as one of England’s most senior forensic psychiatrists, Dr Bullard very much less so. Soering told them both his calculating tale of woe:

In addition to Dr. Hamilton, Jens also met with another psychiatrist, Dr. Henrietta Bullard from the West Berkshire Health Authority. He told her virtually the same tale he had told Hamilton. However, Jens did not meet with the psychiatrists simply to make additional confessions. He was subtly planting the idea that although he had killed the Haysoms, he was not responsible. The fault, he implied, was Elizabeth’s. She had, after all, talked him into it.”

Ken Englade, Beyond Reason (page 224). St. Martin’s Press, 1990. Kindle Edition.

Neither doctor was paid by Soering’s parents to do Haysom any favours at all, needless to say. Their only task was to represent his interests to the fullest extent possible in the circumstances.


Now back to Soering’s claims about Elizabeth Haysom in Mortal Thoughts:

By December, 1986, the doctors’ reports were complete. Liz was diagnosed as a borderline schizophrenic and a pathological liar…” (Page 30.)

Untrue on both counts. Haysom was interviewed by Dr Hamilton and Dr Bullard in England, of course. In exploring options Hamilton does at one point raise the possibility of pathological lies (page 9), but Haysom was neither his client nor his patient, and he was far too careful to attempt to make such a reckless and unsupported diagnosis, even for money. He had gone as far as he could go to be of service.

In Virginia she was evaluated first by licensed clinical psychologist Dr Dewey G. Cornell, and then by a team at the UVA Hospital Forensic Psychiatry Clinic led by Dr C. Robert Showalter. There is no diagnosis in those reports of her being a pathological liar, absolutely none. And the reports were not paid for by Haysom or any member of her family.

Soering’s assertion that Elizabeth Haysom was diagnosed as a borderline schizophrenic is also a lie, which cannot by now be much of a shock to anyone, but this needs a little more unpacking to see where it comes from and to follow the route via which he felt able to manufacture it. What she had in reality was a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder.

His starting point, reasonably enough, was the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), first published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1952. It is now in its 5th edition, but at the time of completing Mortal Thoughts the relevant version was DSM-IV (1994). While highly regarded by many in the profession, the manual is also not without controversy and fierce criticism, and notably included homosexuality as a mental disorder until 1974.

The claim:

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has abandoned the term borderline schizophrenia in favor of a range of personality disorders…” (Mortal Thoughts, page 30.)

This is his desperate attempt to conflate Haysom’s diagnosis with schizophrenia and psychosis. The identical calumny was then regurgitated 16 years later in a letter to Governor Robert McDonnell of 7 March 2011 from lawyer Gail Ball.

Ball’s letter is, for the most part (and not for the first time from Soering’s representatives), a sustained attack on the personal integrity and professional competence of Major Ricky Gardner, by any standards a conspicuously decent man. With deep irony, at various points it is misleading, dishonest and packed with motivated reasoning – precisely the qualities she attributes to Gardner. The strident and insulting tone of the letter is in any event probably not the best way to make friends and influence people in the Governor’s office.

At page 4 of 8 Ball seeks to explain why Elizabeth Haysom wrote in their joint travel diary, “Perhaps fingerprints on the coffee mug used by Jens in the Bedford interview gave him away.” She then repeats Soering’s lies like a trained parrot:

c) Why did Elizabeth Haysom fantasize in the diary? Because she was a “borderline schizophrenic” and a “pathological liar,” according to court-appointed British forensic psychiatrists Dr. John Hamilton and Dr. Henrietta Bullard, who examined her six months later. A few months after this diagnosis, the court-appointed Virginia psychiatrist Dr C. Showalter confirmed their finding. (Today “borderline schizophrenia” is known as borderline personality disorder.)…”


In fact there appears to have been a brief period from the late 1930s when certain psychotherapists (who were not usually qualified medical doctors) did misconstrue borderline personality disorder as a mild form of schizophrenia. But it was also a very primitive time for the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness – a period when, as noted above, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder, and lobotomies were frequently performed as legitimate treatment. Mercifully we now know better.

So rather than just accepting as accurate the intended slurs promulgated by Soering and Ball let’s see what DSM-IV actually says. The link, as usual, is right there for anyone to click on and verify the details. At the time when Soering was writing he knew that for most people it would have required a trip to a public library to consult the DSM, and how many would have taken the time and trouble to do that?

In summary, there are 10 suggested personality disorders. What does that term mean?

A Personality Disorder is an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual’s culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.” (Page 629.)

The 10 types are: paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal, antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic, avoidant, dependent, obsessive-compulsive (and those not otherwise specified).

They are grouped into three broad clusters based on descriptive similarities:

Cluster A includes the Paranoid, Schizoid, and Schizotypal Personality Disorders. Individuals with these disorders often appear odd or eccentric. Cluster B Personality Disorders includes the Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic Personality Disorders. Individuals with these disorders often appear dramatic, emotional, or erratic. Cluster C includes the Avoidant, Dependent, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorders. Individuals with these disorders often appear anxious or fearful.” (Pages 629-30.)

Elizabeth Haysom was diagnosed only with borderline personality disorder, which is –

a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects, and marked impulsivity that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.” (Page 650.)

Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, hostile conflict, and early parental loss or separation are more common in the childhood histories of those with Borderline Personality Disorder.” (Page 652.)

The impairment from the disorder and the risk of suicide are greatest in the young-adult years and gradually wane with advancing age. During their 30s and 40s, the majority of individuals with this disorder attain greater stability in their relationships and vocational functioning.” (Pages 652-653.)

Borderline Personality Disorder often co-occurs with Mood Disorders [such as depression], and when criteria for both are met, both may be diagnosed.” (Page 653.)


It is interesting to note that Soering and Ball might conceivably have had a point, albeit a very small one, if Elizabeth Haysom had been diagnosed with either schizoid or schizotypal personality disorder. The latter, especially, may quite fairly be viewed as a milder form of schizophrenia. However, that was not the diagnosis, was never the diagnosis, and borderline personality disorder does not even fall within the same cluster of conditions.

But an accurate representation of her illness was never their aim, of course: their sole intention was to smear her, and now they’ve been caught out.

One or more forms of talking therapy with a skilled and properly qualified practitioner can be extremely effective over time in the treatment of borderline personality disorder:

Haysom told me that she’d had a great shrink a few years ago who helped her come to terms with her mother’s abuse.”

Nathan Heller, “Blood Ties”, The New Yorker, November 9, 2015.

At her last evaluation Elizabeth Haysom was found to be in gleaming mental health.


Lies and Sexual Failure

In most circumstances the private sexual activities between two young people should be nobody’s business but their own. However, Soering repeatedly raised the issue of his own volition, which was another serious misjudgement on his part. The reason it is relevant is not concerned with what two people did or didn’t do together: it is simply about his inability to tell the truth, yet again.

In Soering’s revisionist account he and Elizabeth Haysom were having a thoroughly wild and energetic time after they began dating shortly before Christmas, 1984:

The sex, whether public or private, had me hooked, too. Our room-mates came to dread our late night appearances, hand-in-hand at the door. Inevitably we would ask one of them to leave for a couple of hours, earning us the nickname, “the rabbits.”” (Page 35.)

On two occasions I myself visited Loose Chippings, as Mr. and Mrs. Haysom called their new home. Liz and I used my scholarship spending money to rent cars on two weekends in February and March when her parents were out of town, so we could make love all day without worrying about college roommates.” (page 51.)

My hormonally inflamed mind kept returning to the mattress in her bedroom and the sexual athletics it would soon see! … Only our love, only its consummation on that mattress upstairs mattered; it made everything whole and solved all problems.” (Page 52.)

I had rented a hotel room so we could celebrate Elizabeth’s return to college with a night of wild sex, but since there had been a delay in her travel plans I had lost the room. No sex, after nine days of abstinence during spring break, now that really was a disaster!” (Page 57.)

Yet Elizabeth Haysom herself told a very different story:

Haysom told me that she and Soering began having sex only on the night of her parents’ funeral: he’d had hangups about intercourse until that moment, and her own sexual avidity ran in odd channels because of her mother. (Soering says their sexual encounters began months earlier.)”

Nathan Heller, “Blood Ties”, The New Yorker, 9 November 2015.


 Their other passion was passion, which was rather lopsided. Although Jens talked a good game, going into extensive detail with Elizabeth about what he called his “bizarre sexual fantasies,” he was a limited performer. He was impotent… The best he could do on his own was think about her and masturbate.”

 Ken Englade, Beyond Reason (pages 113-114).

Much earlier Soering had admitted the truth to Dr John Hamilton in England, as contained in the psychiatric report of 11 December 1986 (having also first acknowledged that physically he was an alarmingly late developer):

Soon after entering college he met Elizabeth Haysom… He says at that time he became impotent on attempted intercourse which he attributes to extreme anxiety. The couple first had full sexual intercourse on April 15, 1985, the day Elizabeth Haysom’s parents were buried.” (Page 4.)

So again she told the truth and he lied. This is now a familiar pattern. It actually took him about four months before he was finally able to consummate the relationship. But he still hadn’t finished rewriting their history so as to present himself in the way he wished to be perceived.


What is most striking here, and chillingly so, is that Jens Soering only acquired sexual potency after murdering the Haysoms. That alone says a great deal about his psyche, and much more than he would ever want us to know.

As part of the psychiatric report of 2 October 1987, following his and his team’s assessment of Elizabeth Haysom, psychiatrist Dr Robert Showalter records her as saying – 

Mr. Soering began “getting into violence as a way of life”…. Mr. Soering tried to make this attitude a part of her as well, his fantasy being that she “would enjoy killing people too and that [they] could go out in the world together.” She recalled that it was “very frightening…. very upsetting, pathetic” to watch Mr. Soering moving in this direction.

During this time (traveling all over Europe), Mr. Soering “really got into this idea of torturing and killing people,” and “wanted to do something to his grandmother.” Furthermore, he was “becoming more adamant and more graphic in his fantasies and angry (at her) for not participating in them.” Ms. Haysom reported that Mr. Soering also wanted “to torture women… particularly very pretty, pouting sort of sex kitten type creatures” with his favorite fantasy being that he would take a soldering iron to them.”

 Naturally he denies all of this in Mortal Thoughts, but he would, inevitably, wouldn’t he? And then he turns the tables and claims that in reality those were the thoughts and desires in her mind, not his:

Sexual violence was the dominant theme of Elizabeth’s imagination…” (Page 24.)

Author Ken Englade thought differently:

Once his sexual capabilities were awakened [after the murders], Jens began making new demands on his lover. Previously content mainly to talk about his sexual fantasies, he now began putting them into play. He became a porn freak, toting home stacks of magazines with wild sexual themes, many of which included some sort of violence.”

Beyond Reason (page 130).

And there is also a very compelling indication of the truth implicit in Haysom’s letters to Soering. He quotes from those letters at length on pages 12-15, 34-35 and 35-37 of Mortal Thoughts, quite conceivably with the intention of causing her public embarrassment at the explicit sexual content contained there. However, it backfires on him. If, as he asserts, sexual violence was the dominant theme in her imagination, then it would be entirely reasonable to expect to find evidence of those desires in her letters. In reality there is no such evidence there, simply none. If he’d had any at all it is a certainty that he would have triumphantly displayed it front and centre in his narrative.

Once again, we can safely infer who is telling the truth and who is telling lies here. In the end at least some of these issues come down to a matter of credibility, and Jens Soering has demonstrably lied so often and for so long that his credibility is now totally non-existent. Nothing he says can ever be believed.

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