It’s sometimes the case, when this website appears to have been left lonely and abandoned, that most of the activity is going on behind the scenes. That’s the current situation. A lot has happened and continues to happen, but quietly just for the moment.
In fact it was always the hope that after Governor Northam’s rejection of Jens Soering’s ludicrous pardon petition the site could come to a gentle end with a couple of valedictory posts to tidy everything up, thereafter remaining in place only for reference. But no; unfortunately the circus moved to Germany and the show continued, seemingly with fresh impetus. So the site will still be here for news and comment on an occasional basis, even to the dismay of the dwindling band of Soering devotees who’d love it to shut up and go away.
In the not too distant future there will be a long-overdue, detailed analysis of the Virginia Parole Board’s decision in November 2019. That decision turns out to have been every bit as corrupt as first suspected, and evidence keeps rolling in. Whoever imagined that favourable parole decisions for murderers could be procured quite so readily? However, this post will mainly be a general update for people who are not necessarily regular followers of events (which is entirely sensible), and particularly those who don’t speak German.
It’s now inevitable that a number of the links below will be to articles in the German language, which is usually a problem for us English speakers. But, for anyone not aware of it, help is available. DeepL is considered by many to be the most accurate translation software and a free version is available without the need to download anything. Unfortunately, the amount of text that can be put into DeepL in one go is limited to roughly 800 words. Other software is available, the best-known being Google Translate. This is free, unfussy and doesn’t do a bad job. When German is detected a box will often appear on the screen asking if the user wishes Google to translate the page:
Alternatively, if the box doesn’t appear it will sometimes be possible to activate the program by right-clicking on the page and the translation option can then be selected.
The quality of a translation will normally be determined by the quality of the original writing: sometimes it’s remarkably good and sometimes it lapses into gibberish. However, software translations always need to be viewed with a degree of caution. For accuracy and reliability the skilled human translator is still very far from redundant.
OK, that’s the first part of the housework done.
Perhaps the most important thing to say at this point is that an abundance of information has been coming in over the last few months which is liable to cause Jens Soering mounting problems from many directions.
Andrew Hammel, on his own site, has already implied that there are at least one or two people in Hamburg with their eyes open and keeping watch. Or maybe a few more than that…? Those letters to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) from ol’ Chip Harding and Annabel Hagemann of Facebook and the Freundeskreis now look even more ill-advised than they did at the time. They provoked Hammel’s immense final article with its link to the Wright Report, stimulating interest all across Germany. That includes Hamburg, naturally, so the flow of information is continuing from there as well as from within media companies and book publishers (where the staff don’t always appreciate having to work with disreputable characters).
But there’s more. Here’s the further problem Soering and his team now face. While the pardon application was being investigated in Virginia people were very restrained. Not much leaked out, although one senior official is known to have said several months before the decision that Soering’s chances of parole were zero. In principle he was correct; but he made that comment without anticipating how improper the nature of the decision would turn out to be.
It’s hard to overstate the disgust felt by any number of people about the Parole Board’s decision, at the behest of the Governor, to grant Soering parole at the same time as Elizabeth Haysom. Some of these people were in positions where all the case papers were available to them, including the entire pardon file. Those papers passed through many hands in the offices of the Governor, the Parole Board and the Commonwealth’s Attorney, just to name a few. Anyone with documents to share knew exactly where to come, and come they certainly did. Now we have possession of those documents, pretty much the whole lot, a delightful smorgasbord. And they tell the story.
Just to give one example for now:
A quick return to Andrew Griffiths: “Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition!”
The main post on this site dealing with the shoddy, error-strewn work of Andrew Griffiths noted that –
“It would certainly be illuminating to scrutinise Griffiths’ 21-page report word by word but that opportunity is not open to us (yet). However, based on what he said to Amanda Knox it is most unlikely to be a convincing document.”
And so it proved. As already revealed by Andrew Hammel, we do now have Griffiths’ complete report, which is every bit as hapless as expected. It would be all too easy to rip it apart and detail the multitude of deficiencies one by one, but it would serve no useful purpose at this stage. For now just a few brief observations will suffice.
Reproduced below are the two boxes of text found at the beginning and end of the report.
A disclaimer is not in itself objectionable, although it has to be said that Griffiths was supplied with all the material any genuine false confessions expert would have needed for the job at hand. This is apparent from the documents and recordings listed at the end of the report.
The report was compiled, he says, “in good faith”. Doubtless it was. Then the reader is left with no other option than to attribute the egregious errors and misrepresentations to gross incompetence. What would they have thought back at Bramshill, famously the home of so much unwarranted self-regard?
Somewhat more curious is the pretentious stylistic choice found in the disclaimer and throughout. Griffiths refers to “the authors” (plural) and later to “we”, as if the report were the product of a team. Yet nowhere is a co-author mentioned and the report is signed only by Griffiths himself. Maybe he thinks that “we” somehow boosts the authority of his work. It really doesn’t; the task is much too big for a mere personal pronoun to bear.
There’s the revelation: “must not be reproduced…” Why might that be? Could it be because Griffiths knows the report doesn’t withstand critical scrutiny, or because he knows it’s conceivably defamatory under English law, or both?
More than ever, he appears like a man standing on a high ledge, one wobbly leg on and one off, balanced precariously and trying desperately not to fall off, the outcome uncertain. It could well be that retired detectives Wright and Beever are watching and listening attentively, ready to acquaint Andrew Griffiths with the good people from Writs R Us. But that’s purely speculation, of course. Who knows?
It’s probably fair to say that Griffiths, like many who rushed to the side of Jens Soering, never imagined that his venture into this case would come under such close scrutiny. No doubt it’s been highly uncomfortable for him, and yet richly deserved. When exposed to proper examination he was shown to be woefully out of his depth in a classic example of practical and intellectual overreach, for which he has to endure the opprobrium. It therefore seems a little unlikely that he’ll be foolish enough to involve himself in another, laughably so-called, “false confession” case, but if he does then his contribution to this one is on record.
Some of the most significant coverage and analysis of Soering’s parole and return to Germany was in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), of course, which was already referred to and linked here at several points in the post on the Wright Report.
The popular tabloid Bild carried its own reports in its own style, giving readers a more than adequate outline of events. The link leads to all those reports.
In the United States the parole decision was covered by the Washington Post in its unique way by journalist Laura Vozzella, as usual, who always had at least one foot in the Soering camp and was a ready-made, unthinking conduit for their propaganda. No Pulitzer Prizes will be heading in her direction, that’s for sure.
A little more surprisingly, perhaps, the story was covered at some length in the UK. The Week provided a summary, while the Mail Online carried a number of stories, which also featured a prison mugshot and various photographs taken at Frankfurt airport. (The link above leads to multiple stories in English, all without a paywall.) One headline reads:
At the very least, one might reasonably expect a German government minister like the gormless Peter Beyer to have much higher moral standards than that. To be welcoming a deported murderer like a conquering hero is not at all a good look for his country. But that shouldn’t need saying in the first place.
The post-return media roadshow didn’t really make a start until several months later. Soering’s first interview was with Der Spiegel news magazine which came out at the end of February 2020, and a very strange affair it was. The interview was conducted by no less than three (!) journalists – Sarah Heidi Engel, Hauke Goos and Simone Salden – and alongside Soering were his latest lawyer (one of many) and a media advisor from the Dederichs, Reinecke & Partner PR agency in Hamburg. It must have been a crowded and well paid gathering.
Most people would wonder why an innocent man needed his lawyer and media advisor on such an occasion. The plain answer, of course, is that he’s in fact a totally guilty man and therefore needs a strong protective ring around him. No difficult questions were asked, predictably enough, despite a trio of inquisitors, and presumably that was the aim of the exercise. Lawyers and media advisors have to earn their money somehow.
Where did the interview take place?
“An old flat in Hamburg at the beginning of February, high ceilings, modern art, in front of the window a long wooden table: Jens Söring, “Prisoner 179212” and, depending on your point of view, “Victim of Justice” or “German Monster”… Where the apartment is, what you can see from the window, who owns it: None of this should be mentioned…” [Translated from German.]
They must be referring to that secret location in 20099 Hamburg…
It was a very poor excuse for an interview, but not completely without interest. The greater part was all about the privations and menace of prison life (with just a casual reference to his self-confessed role as a loan shark), which will have been no shock to anyone. Nobody mistakes the more typical American prisons for luxury holiday camps.
The intriguing part of the interview came towards the end. Clearly Soering is determined to maintain the innocence myth even as all his bogus claims have turned to dust. In different circumstances this childish charade would be amusing and possibly quite touching, but not here, not when he brutally slaughtered two blameless people. On the subject of the murders, as translated, these brief exchanges occurred:
SPIEGEL: “Back to Nancy and Derek Haysom: Did you kill those two?”
Söring: “Absolutely not. No, not at all.”
SPIEGEL: “Then who was it?”
Söring: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Forensic evidence says there were at least two other men at the scene. We know that from the DNA traces, but we also know that from the shoe prints. There is not a single piece of forensic evidence linking me to the crime scene.”
SPIEGEL: “If it wasn’t you: Who killed those two?”
Söring: “In the end, we’ll never know.”
SPIEGEL: “Isn’t that hard to bear?”
Söring: “Yes. But it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t there.”
So now, after falsely accusing Elizabeth Haysom of committing the murders for 30 years, suddenly – suddenly! – he doesn’t know who committed them, no, absolutely no idea! It must be another one of his frustrating memory lapses.
Or perhaps he’s come to realise that defamation is a crime in Germany. And there are rumoured to be some high quality, ethical lawyers in the historic city of Berlin…
It’s also notable that he persists with the desperate and fatuous claim about two mystery men long after it’s been discredited by every single person to have looked at the DNA evidence independently. And he knows it too. The only people ever to postulate the presence of such men were the scientists so generously paid for their opinions, presumably by some wealthy benefactor(s). Not forgetting the begging bowl which was a feature of the Soering website.
If the interview’s purpose was an exercise in damage control then on its own limited terms it might just have been considered satisfactory enough by the people around Soering. As for persuading the mass of general readers of his innocence, however, it will have done nothing – because it can’t. On the contrary, many sharper readers will have noticed the glaring absence of difficult or uncomfortable questions and drawn their own conclusions.
When it comes to the Dederichs, Reinecke & Partner PR agency, their position is not risk-free, which they ought to know perfectly well. Their industry has various examples of PR businesses which themselves suffered long-term reputational damage as a result of representing clients who were far too toxic for people to stomach. Perhaps they have no idea how many previously good names have been destroyed by proximity to Jens Soering, whose relentless dishonesty runs through him like the stamp through Blackpool rock.
Next, once again, comes what may in future be described as the notorious Markus Lanz interview, broadcast by ZDF on 14 May 2020. There is relatively little needing to be said about it, but only because the whole thing has already been covered in great depth by Andrew Hammel and this, at least, definitely had to be left to a fluent German speaker. The absurd farce was highlighted and linked in a previous post here.
The story is ongoing and seems likely to have plenty of life left in it, while the fact that Lanz and Soering appear to be Hamburg jogging partners should be duly noted, as should Soering’s continuing absent-mindedness about who committed the murders. If he needs a clue he should look in the mirror, which would surely refresh his memory.
The full 75-minute show, in German, is now available to watch on YouTube.
Following the Lanz/Soering broadcast, an article reviewing the show then appeared on 3 June 2020 in the German language Tichys Einblick magazine, written by comedian and cabaret artist Ludger Kusenberg. Andrew Hammel’s work in German is mentioned there frequently and to good effect. The article makes any number of serious and legitimate observations while also reflecting Kusenberg’s primary occupation, so the tone is often light, mocking and satirical, but none the worse for that. Above all, it shows very effectively how Soering’s innocence narrative is falling to pieces for anyone with a functioning brain. The article is well worth reading.
Last on the current list is Die Medien-Woche (The Media Week) which is a podcast available for download, released on 30 May 2020. The Soering case is discussed at some length beginning just after the 30-minute point, with Andrew Hammel taking part as an informed contributor. Regrettably but inevitably no English translation is available, so this one is exclusively for German speakers.
There can be no doubt that, cumulatively and inexorably, the concerted effort to stop (or at least expose) the lies is having an effect. It would appear that Soering recently found himself in difficulty on Twitter by trying to ingratiate himself with Black Lives Matter advocates. In response he was confronted with his own racist outpourings in the past, which were very hard to explain away. Perhaps his next move in the hopeful search for allies might be to self-identify as transgender. Well, it’s a thought.
The result of the social media hailstorm was that he took down his Facebook and Instagram pages (as at 16 June), and his Twitter account was deleted. It turns out that a life of defamation and lies must be rather less congenial than he expected.
So where does Jens Soering go from here? His opportunities for travel are severely limited, that’s for sure, and not just as a consequence of Covid-19. In July 2019 he explained to Amanda Knox what he’d most like to do in a podcast interview for Killing for Love (part 8): The Cost:
“In my heart of hearts, what I really wish were possible – and I understand it’s not, but it’s my fantasy – is they fly me back to Germany, and I land in Frankfurt and I don’t get off the plane, and the plane takes off again and keeps on going to New Zealand; and somehow I get past immigration control in New Zealand and just walk into the hills and nobody knows who I am, and I’m anonymous, and I’m not Jens Soering…”
On that occasion he was right. The chances of his getting through immigration control in New Zealand as a double murderer are practically nil and the same would apply elsewhere – unquestionably he’ll be persona non grata in most countries. Even within the European Union the cherished principle of free movement doesn’t help him. Countries retain a right of restriction when it is exercised on genuine grounds of “public policy, public security… and on the personal conduct” of the individual concerned. But he’s lucky, nonetheless: if he’s going to be stuck somewhere then Germany is among the best countries in the world to be, so he’d better quickly learn to love it.
In other ways, too, the options for Soering are narrowing. When speaking to Nathan Heller in December he clearly had serious thoughts of reinventing himself as some kind of motivational speaker:
“What they want on the speaking circuit,” he said studiously, “is unique stories of resilience, and I have a really unique story of resilience. You know, it took me thirty-three years, but I fought my way off death row! And I fought my way out of prison! And I never gave up!”… “Remember, a few years ago, there was that man in the United States who was on a hike and got trapped by a boulder and had to saw his own arm off, and then they made a movie about it?” Soering said. “He’s on the speaker’s circuit, and he is killing it.”
The New Yorker, 21 December 2019: “A New Chapter in a Double-Murder Case.”
But that possibility looks increasingly unlikely. The whole idea behind the speaking engagements was to tell an inspiring tale of love, innocence and survival. However, too many people are now becoming aware of the truth, so any speaking engagements would be fraught with problems – even assuming that enough people would be willing to hand over their hard-earned money in the first place. Many members of the German public would not be as docile and accommodating as Markus Lanz and Der Spiegel: some would ask the difficult questions and press for convincing answers, which is a risk Soering dare not take. Various documents are available to be viewed and downloaded here, including the Wright Report, so nobody’s vision ever has to be obscured by a miasma of lies.
There are (or were) plans for a Netflix film dealing with the case once again, supposedly directed by Marcus Vetter, just like Killing for Love, and a new Soering book is also scheduled for 2021. Both will face major obstacles, so whether they actually come to fruition remains to be seen.
When they made Killing for Love (originally The Promise), Marcus Vetter and co-director Karin Steinberger had a relatively easy ride because they faced little, if any, opposition. Things have since changed dramatically. It can be proved beyond any possible doubt that audio sequences in their film were doctored to Soering’s advantage, and equally that numerous interviewees blatantly lied. Vetter, especially, knows that he’s been exposed as little more than a cynical propagandist, and any further offering from him would be bound to come under the most intense scrutiny. If he tried to pull the same old trick again it would almost certainly be career-ending. And not forgetting, of course, that he would be working in a completely different legal environment next time. Will he really want to keep on poking at this hornet’s nest when it’s so dangerous for him? We’ll find out soon enough.
Any new book on the case will face problems of its own, also principally legal. There is no longer any First Amendment protection, and with criminal penalties for defamation Soering’s freedom to lie about Elizabeth Haysom and her role in the murders is greatly diminished. That has to be overcome somehow, but such a book will also be released into a less receptive climate of opinion than before. His publishers will be aware that the public mood is changing, so will they want to suffer the odium of association with an unrepentant murderer? It wasn’t so long ago that staff at a publishing house refused to work on a book by Woody Allen, a man who had faced allegations for which there was no evidence beyond uncorroborated assertion. Will Bertelsmann (Random House) staff be entirely happy to assist in the enrichment of a properly convicted man whose guilt has been affirmed by every formal body to have examined the case? Again, we’ll find out soon enough.
From every direction Jens Soering looks certain to face huge problems if he persists with his mendacious tale of innocence. It seems very unlikely that he’ll ever drop the pretence because he has too much to lose, too many people to let down, so he remains stuck in an alternative prison of his own making. It’s still vaguely possible that he might score one or two superficial victories in the short term, but the direction of travel is now clear. This is a fight he can’t win in the end; all he can do is prolong the anguish of comprehensive exposure and defeat, no matter how many lawyers and PR people are employed to suppress the truth.
He does actually have a choice, albeit one that won’t appeal to him. He could decide to live a quiet, honest life, eternally grateful that he’s been given some years of freedom to enjoy. But if he continues with his efforts to be a kind of grandiose public celebrity then he will keep being confronted with his truly vile actions in 1985 and his equally vile campaign to evade and repudiate any responsibility for those actions. Unfortunately, most of us have a pretty shrewd idea which choice he’ll make, so the conflict will carry on as long as necessary – because Haysoms’ Lives Mattered, too.