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Elizabeth Roxanne HAYSOM





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: March 30, 1985
Date of arrest: April 30, 1986 (in London, England)
Date of birth: April 1964
Victims profile: William Reginald Haysom, 72, and Nancy Astor Haysom, 53 (her parents)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Boonsboro, Bedford County, Virginia, USA
Status: Pled guilty to two counts of accessory to murder before the fact on August 23, 1987. Sentenced to 90 years in prison
photo gallery
A scenario of how the Haysom murders may have occurred

Elizabeth Roxanne Haysom (born April 1964) is a Canadian woman who, along with her former boyfriend, Jens Söring, orchestrated the double murder of her parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom, in 1985.

Following the Haysoms' murders (committed by Jens Söring), Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Söring were arrested in London, England, for check fraud and shoplifting. Elizabeth Haysom is currently serving a 90-year prison sentence at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Virginia, after pleading guilty to two counts of accessory to murder before the fact in 1987.

Early life

Elizabeth Haysom was the only child of Derek Haysom, a retired Nova Scotia steel executive, and Nancy Astor Benedict Haysom, an artist. Derek and Nancy had a combined total of five children from previous marriages. Born in April 1964, Elizabeth attended the English boarding school Wycombe Abbey before enrolling at the University of Virginia. It was there she met her 18-year-old boyfriend Jens Söring, the son of a German diplomat and a Jefferson Scholar at the university.


On the morning of March 30, 1985, the bodies of Derek and Nancy Haysom were discovered. They had been slashed and stabbed to death in their Boonsboro, Virginia home, most likely by Jens Söring. Both Derek and Nancy were almost decapitated. The couple's bodies were not discovered until days after the murder. During the timeline of the murder, Elizabeth Haysom had rented a car. She and Jen drove to Washington, D.C., to establish an alibi.

Flight to England

Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Söring were not initially suspects in the Haysoms' murders. Months after the March 1985 murders, Haysom and Söring were arrested on charges of check fraud. At first, Söring confessed to committing the crime, but after being unable to be tried in West Germany, his country of citizenship, he recanted his story.


Instead of going to trial, Elizabeth Haysom pled guilty to two counts of accessory to murder before the fact. She was sentenced to 90 years in prison.

Jens Söring went to trial 3 years later in Bedford County, Virginia, after having fought extradition to the United States. In exchange for his return for trial, VA. had to agree to drop the charge of capital murder and a death penalty.

Prosecutors in Söring's murder trial alleged that Söring had murdered the Haysoms after an argument at dinner when the Haysoms forbade him to see their daughter. Söring maintained his innocence, but was convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison.

As of 2011, Elizabeth Haysom acknowledges her guilt and will be eligible for parole in 2032, at the age of 68.

Jens Söring continues to proclaim his innocence. He became eligible for parole in 2003, but his application was denied. He is currently serving his life sentence at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia.

In 2010, Virginia's governor Tim Kaine approved Söring's request to be transferred to a prison in Germany, but the transfer request was denied by Kaine's successor, Bob McDonnell.

In the media

The Haysoms' murders have been profiled by Geraldo Rivera, City Confidential, Wicked Attraction, Deadly Women and On the Case with Paula Zahn.


Deadly Disapproval: The Murder of Derek and Nancy Haysom by Jens Soering, Boyfriend of Elizabeth Haysom

By Kim Cantrell -

May 22, 2012

Nancy Astor Benedict may have been born in Arizona but, just like her mother, her heart was in Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and it was where she would return for the final years of her life.

First, however, there was a failed marriage that produced two sons but her second marriage was her final one.

When Nancy met Derek Haysom, she instantly fell in love – despite her being only 27 years old to Derek’s 46. Born in South Africa to British parents, Derek was a divorcee with four children and earned a nice living as an engineer.

After Derek and Nancy married in 1960, they added one more to their brood: a daughter, Elizabeth Roxanne Haysom. While they lived in several countries before settling in Virginia, Elizabeth would attend the British prep school of Wycombe Abbey to complete her middle and high school education.

During her time at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth exhibited a great amount of ambition and was highly intelligent. And Elizabeth had a penchant for drama.

Lot of drama – on or off stage.

Spoiled Broad from Abroad

From the time she was born in Rhodesia, South Africa, Elizabeth was a child who demanded a lot of attention. Being ten years younger than her closest sibling, this task fell mainly on her parents.

Wanting their daughter to have the best education possible, they enrolled her in Wycombe Abbey, a boarding school just about a hour northwest of London. At first Elizabeth had trouble fitting in but, after a couple of years, she learned the traditions, mannerisms, and such of the country and became more accepted among her peers. But even though she now had some semblance of a social life, Elizabeth maintained a strict regime of schoolwork in addition to her music and acting activities.

During her last years of schooling, Derek and Nancy enrolled Elizabeth in high level science and mathematics classes in anticipation of her following her father into a career of engineering. However, Elizabeth’s strongest talents lay within the more artistic courses and her grades plummeted. As such, she was forced to attend high school for an additional year.

This was when, according to Elizabeth, she began to resent her parents and began to rebel against the high expectations being thrust upon her.

One of the first things Elizabeth done, she later claimed she was framed for. A few girls at Wycombe Abbey were caught with drugs and, per Elizabeth, blamed her because they knew school officials would believe the “foreign” girl did it. As part of her punishment, Elizabeth was prohibited from using the telephone and, as such, was out of touch with her parents for several days; which, she later claimed, is what led to her running away from the school for almost five months.

When she returned to Wycombe Abbey, most of her friends had moved on and Elizabeth began to seethe even more at the overbearing presumptions of her parents that had set her back a year. As she sat in her dorm room alone, brooding over the injustices, she began to think back to all the ways her parents had done her wrong; such as, when she was raped at 10-years-old at her school in Switzerland and her parents chose to ignore the incident and the time she was physically attacked by a teen boy at her school in Nova Scotia because of her father’s job.

Funny thing about it, though, was Elizabeth exaggerated these incidents in her mind. For example, the rape she had claimed to suffer was merely a case of indecent exposure. And the physical assault in Nova Scotia? Well, she claimed to have had her two front teeth knocked out while having her face bashed against a brick wall, but it was obvious she still had her natural front teeth and there was only a very, very small scar on her chin.

During her last year at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth began experimenting with drugs and her sexuality, doing both quite openly. In 1983, homosexuality was only beginning to be accepted in Europe but not according to the prep school rules. Elizabeth was told she was going to have to leave and return to her parents in Canada.

Being expelled from Wycombe Abbey meant that Elizabeth would not be accepted to her desired Trinity College and her girlfriend had been rejected by Oxford, so the two decided to throw caution to the wind and headed out on their own.

From July until October, the two girls survived by taking odd jobs, stealing food when possible, sleeping in strangers apartments and homes, selling their blood, and prostituting themselves as they traveled through France, Italy, and Germany, until, tired and destitute, finally they dragged themselves to the British Consulate to ask for train tickets back to Britain.

Elizabeth was returned to her parents, who were rather exhausted by their daughters’ waywardness by this time. When Derek was offered a job in Virginia, he and Nancy decided it would be the best move for them all; and they were hopeful that Elizabeth would be accepted by the University of Virginia.

Elizabeth went along, but she saw it as one more way her parents were controlling her life.

And she was very, very unhappy about that.

The Boyfriend

In 1984, Elizabeth enrolled at the University of Virginia. As it was when she first began school at Wycombe Abbey, Elizabeth had trouble fitting in with her schoolmates.

Then she met Jens Soering, a German born eighteen year old who was the son of a diplomat. Small and squirrelly, Jens was off-putting to other students with his arrogance and support of Nazism.

At first, Elizabeth thought Jens to be wimpy but the more she talked with him, the more she learned they had a lot in common, especially their snootiness toward Americans and their resentment of family.

Elizabeth spent hours talking to Jens about how she was assaulted and her parents seemed to not care, sending her overseas to school instead. She told him about running away a couple of times and her expulsion from Wycombe Abbey. Jens, in turn, dripped venom from his voice as he told Elizabeth about his wealthy maternal grandmother who had refused to give her daughter (Jens’ mother) money to divorce his strict father; money to which he believed he and his mother were rightfully entitled a portion.

Jens was appalled when Elizabeth told him about the one afternoon after she moved home with her parents that Nancy forced her to strip and assume strange poses while she photographed her. According to Elizabeth, it wasn’t the first time she had been “used” by her mother. When Jens asked her how she was able to live with such abuse, Elizabeth said she’d just learned to cope and held on to a secret wish.

“I wish they were dead,” she said.

Deadly Dislike

Derek and Nancy didn’t like Jens from the moment they laid eyes on him. He was arrogant and cynical. Jens also seemed to fuel Elizabeth’s dramatics and exaggerations, which they had long grown weary of.

They didn’t hide their feelings from Elizabeth and bluntly told her they did not like Jens. Her parents encouraged her to meet other boys, to consider all the fish in the sea. But Elizabeth loved Jens and that’s who she wanted to be with. There was no one else in Elizabeth’s mind.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, didn’t keep her parents’ feelings secret from Jens either. She was angry that her parents tried to control every aspect of her life, even her love life. And every time she brought it up, Jens grew more angry.

What was there not to like about him?

Changing Daddy’s Mind

Elizabeth and Jens had it all worked out. They would rent a car and travel to the Washington D.C. area. They would rent a hotel room and Elizabeth would go to the movies, buying two tickets to two movies, while Jens went to her parents’ home and had a heart to heart with them.

On March 30, 1985, they set the plan into action.

After eight o’clock that evening, when there came a knock on the door at Loose Chippings, the name Nancy had given to their home, Derek and Nancy wondering who could have come calling at such a late hour.

On their doorstep, they found Jens. When they asked where Elizabeth was, Jens told them he had come alone. They hesitantly invited him in and offered him food and drink while they conversed. Jens later said that Derek spent much of the time outlining their hopes and dreams for Elizabeth and how he was not a part of the plan. Derek bluntly told Jens that he if insisted on seeing his daughter, he would do all he could to get him dismissed from the university.

Jens was offended and stood up abruptly from his chair. Derek too rose from his seat and told Jens, “Sit down, young man” but Jens refused to comply.

Instead, Jens pulled a knife from his pocket and slashed at Derek, cutting him deep on the neck. Nancy, having witnessed the attack on her husband, ran for the kitchen where the phone was to call for help, but Jens brutally attacked her and stabbed her several times, leaving her to bleed to death on the kitchen floor.

Returning to Derek, Jens found his girlfriend’s father back on his feet and ready to defend himself. The two struggled mightily; Jens intending to finish what he started, Derek just trying to survive.

When all was said and done, Derek lay in a pool of blood on the living room floor.

After spending several minutes, cleaning himself and pacing frantically, trying to come to terms with what he had done, Jens headed back to D.C.

Elizabeth had grown weary of waiting for Jens to return. Instead of watching a third movie, she returned to their hotel instead and that is where Jens found her.

The deed was done. Now they could be together forever.

Catch Me If You Can

When their bodies were discovered several days later, the citizens and police of Boonsboro were afraid that the Haysoms’ murders were the work of a crazed madman or of a satanic cult. The couple had no known enemies and since nothing was known to be missing, then robbery gone wrong wasn’t a motive.

They found Elizabeth Haysom and her German boyfriend to be weird; but being weird didn’t make them murderers.

But the more they talked to the them, especially Elizabeth, the more certain they became Elizabeth was responsible for her parents’ murders. And her half-siblings were inclined to believe the same thing after Elizabeth began leading police on a wild goose chase of possible suspects, alleged missing items, and, finally, accusing her mother of sexual molestation.

Realizing the police were closing in on them, Elizabeth and Jens hightailed it to England, where they lived under assumed names. It would seem two murderers had waltzed right out of America and disappeared off the face of the earth.

But Jens and Elizabeth loved to spend money and live lavishly, but now they didn’t have their parents’ money to afford them this luxury.

When they were spotted in a Marks & Spencer department store in the Richmond area of London making exchanges for cash then writing checks for new purchases, all while pretending not to know one another.

Store security was suspicious enough to follow them. The couples’ actions only became more intriguing and eventually an officer was asked to talk with them. During the question about their activities, it was asked if they would consent to a search of their flat. For an inexplicable reason, they agreed.

A search of the apartment uncovered multiple IDs as well as matching driver’s licenses, passports, and birth certificates. But most shocking was the letters Elizabeth had written to Jens wherein they discussed the murder of her parents, albeit in code at times.


Haysom-Soering: Parent-killer speaks out about ex-BF

By Lisa Provence -

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Haysom, sentenced to 90 years for the brutal murder and near-decapitation of her parents, has broken her silence from prison with a letter to the Associated Press that insists her former boyfriend, Jens Soering, who is trying to get paroled to Germany, is guilty.

The AP also reports Soering's attorney sent a sworn statement to the governor from Lynchburg resident Tony Buchanan, who says Haysom picked up a bloody car from his transmission shop with another man– who was not Soering–- months after Derek and Nancy Haysom were slain in 1985.

Soering, who met Haysom while both were students at UVA, has long maintained that he confessed to the crime because he believed his father's status as a diplomat would give him immunity. Former governor Tim Kaine okayed his transfer to Germany before he left office in 2010, but that was nixed by incoming Governor Bob McDonnell. Soering has been eligible for parole since 2003.


Haysom murders, 20 years ago today: blood sweat and convictions

Starting in 1985, the Haysom double murder case ranged from Virginia to England and ignited a three-year legal battle

By Jat Conley -

April 3, 2005

Carl Wells remembers it clearly.

Retired now to his 200-plus-acre farm just outside Bedford, Wells, 69, was Bedford County's sheriff 20 years ago today when friends found the brutally stabbed bodies of Derek and Nancy Haysom in their Boonsboro home.

"It was about as bad a crime scene as you'd want to look at," he said.

The discovery of the bodies touched off a criminal investigation that led from Virginia to England and ignited a three-year legal battle.

Beyond the sheer violence of the act came the shocking discovery that the affluent couple's college-age daughter, Elizabeth, and her German boyfriend, Jens Soering, both honor students at the University of Virginia, were responsible for the crime.

The slain couple's ties to South Africa and Canada, along with Soering's father being a West German diplomat, caused a flurry of national and international media attention.

In Bedford, the case was the talk of the town.

"Wherever you went, people were talking about it," said Carol Black, who has been the county's Circuit Court clerk for 21 years. "When you put it all together, it was all so different than anything else that had ever happened."

Chuck Reid, one of the lead investigators on the case, had worked other homicides for the sheriff's office, but the Haysom case was different.

"They don't stick in my mind like that one does," Reid, now 53 and a captain with the Blue Ridge Regional Jail Authority's Moneta annex, said last week.

Haysom, now 40, pleaded guilty in 1987 to conspiring to kill her parents and is serving a 90-year sentence at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy.

Soering, now 38, was convicted in 1990 on two counts of first-degree murder during a three-week trial that was televised on late-night TV and drew a throng of spectators who brought sack lunches to avoid giving up their seats in the packed courtroom. He is serving two life terms at the Brunswick Correctional Center in Lawrenceville.

Over the last two decades, books and cable television documentaries have been produced about the relationship between the two young lovers that led to murder.

Bedford County officials marveled recently at how quickly the time has passed since the killings.

Soering feels differently.

"I'm not aware of anybody in prison who thinks that 20 years goes by quickly," Soering said during an interview last month.

'A real whodunit'

For Wells and his small staff, examining the crime scene that Wednesday afternoon in 1985 yielded few clues.

"This was a real whodunit," said Ricky Gardner, 49, who is a captain now with the sheriff's office. Back then, he was 29 years old and had spent the past five years as a road deputy before Wells promoted him to investigator a few months before the murders.

When authorities stepped into the house that day, they found Derek Haysom lying on his left side near the front of the two-story brick and wood home with dozens of stab wounds to his torso, his throat slit, his face disfigured with cuts. In the kitchen lay Nancy Haysom, face down, her throat also cut, with similar stab wounds. Blood stained the floors of the home.

There was no sign of forced entry or robbery. The couple appeared to have sat down to dinner before they were killed, and they had been drinking quite a bit. Autopsies on the bodies determined both had 0.22 percent blood-alcohol levels.

Wells made Gardner and Reid the lead investigators on the case, and they would spend several months, work 12-hour days and chase down a number of false leads before turning their focus on Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering.

Deep-rooted resentment

Derek W.R. Haysom was 72 when he was murdered. Nancy Haysom was 53. Tall and robust, Derek Haysom's appearance not only conjured up comparisons to Ernest Hemingway, but his actions also exemplified the famous author's creed of grace under pressure. South African by birth, Haysom fought for the British behind enemy lines in the Middle East in World War II. He rose to become a powerful South African steel company executive and later moved to Nova Scotia at the request of the Canadian government to turn around a failing national steel mill there.

Beautiful as well as intelligent and adventuresome, Nancy Astor Benedict Haysom was raised in Lynchburg among privileged family. She had been all over the world with her father, a geologist, before marrying Derek Haysom in South Africa in 1960.

Between them, they had five children from prior marriages.

Born in 1964, Elizabeth Haysom inherited her mother's beauty, and by the time her parents retired to the rural, upper-class community of Boonsboro just outside Lynchburg in 1982, she was a bright teenager who had been reared in exclusive English boarding schools.

She also harbored deep-rooted resentment against her parents' overbearing control over everything she did, Haysom later told Soering.

In the fall of 1984, the 20-year-old Haysom enrolled in an honors program at the University of Virginia, about an hour from her parents' home.

Soon, she was seen hanging out with Soering, a self-described socially awkward and insecure 18-year-old West German student with thick glasses who was a Jefferson Scholar, which afforded him a prestigious academic scholarship.

It would be that insecurity and awkwardness that would lead Soering to make what he now calls "the mistake of my life."

Investigators close in

In the absence of substantial physical evidence, Gardner and Reid began to focus on what little they had, including a bloody footprint on the Haysoms' floor.

"We talked to everybody that we could to come up with a motive for why these people were so brutally murdered," Gardner said.

Wells took the unusual step of issuing weekly press releases to newspaper and television reporters starved for any tidbit of information, but he didn't want to reveal that family and friends of the Haysoms were considered suspects.

"There are certain things in the house that only we know and the person or persons who were there know," he told The Roanoke Times & World-News in a story about a week after the bodies were found. "I want to keep a couple of aces up my sleeve."

Neighbors of the Haysoms, scared that they too were in danger, latched onto any gossip about the case, including one theory that the murders were related to a satanic cult.

"They were locking their door and almost afraid to go to sleep," Wells said.

Gardner initially dismissed Elizabeth Haysom as a suspect.

But as other leads in the case were examined and dismissed, he and Reid focused on her whereabouts at the time of the murders. She told Gardner she and Soering had rented a car and driven to Washington, D.C. The mileage on the car, however, showed it had been driven hundreds of miles more than a round trip from Charlottesville to Washington.

Haysom said she and Soering had gotten lost on the way and spent time driving around Washington.

The discrepancy, coupled with Haysom's indifferent behavior during interviews and at her parents' funeral, warranted closer scrutiny.

"We had suspicions her activities weren't right and neither were his," Wells said. "They didn't show the real concern that they should have from the start. I'm a firm believer that a person's body will tell you more than their tongue."

"She didn't seem to be upset about anything really at all," Reid said.

While Haysom agreed to submit samples of her fingerprints and blood to police, Soering refused. He feared he would be deported or his family would somehow get in trouble if West German authorities found out he was involved in a murder investigation, Gardner said. At the time, Soering's father was vice consul at the West German consulate in Detroit.

The investigators had learned through interviews with Haysom family members, including Elizabeth, that Derek Haysom didn't approve of Soering dating his daughter.

In an interview the first week of October 1985, Gardner and Reid confronted Soering about his involvement in the murders.

"We did the good cop-bad cop thing," Gardner said. "I called him everything but a liar."

But Soering stood by the couple's story that they were miles away at the time of the murders. Eventually, he promised to return a week or so later for a follow-up interview, Gardner said.

Instead, Soering and Haysom disappeared from UVa and left the country separately for Europe.

Seven months later, short on money, they were arrested outside London in May 1986 on check fraud charges. British police searched the couple's apartment. They found bogus passports, wigs, mustaches and fraudulent checks, as well as letters to each other and a diary that led them to believe a murder had been committed, Gardner said.

Faye Massie, who works in the Bedford County Circuit Court clerk's office now, was a secretary at the sheriff's office in 1986 when she answered a phone call from a British investigator.

"He said, 'Have you all got an unsolved murder?'" Massie could hardly contain her excitement. "I said, 'Hold on, let me get the sheriff.'"

Gardner and Jim Updike, who was the county's commonwealth's attorney at the time and is now a Circuit Court judge, flew to England to interrogate Haysom and Soering.

Confessions soon followed.

According to Soering's confession, he drove the rental car alone to the Haysom home to commit the murders, Gardner said. He wounded Derek Haysom first after he was chastised by Haysom for dating his daughter. Then he tackled and killed Nancy Haysom in the kitchen before finishing off Derek Haysom.

Maintaining innocence

Soering has said over the years that he was in Washington when the murders occurred, and that he confessed only to save Elizabeth Haysom from being sentenced to death - and under the mistaken belief that he would be deported to Germany, where he would be tried as a youth and face a limited jail sentence.

"My feeling was, 10 years of my life was worth saving Elizabeth's life," he said.

But Elizabeth Haysom ended her relationship with Soering not long after her arrest and told authorities that Soering had committed the murders. She pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the murders before the fact in 1987 in a Bedford County courtroom.

Soering was initially charged with capital murder. He fought extradition to America for three years, backed at one point by the European Court of Human Rights, until the charge, which carries the death penalty, was dropped.

He returned to Bedford County in 1990 and pleaded not guilty to two charges of first-degree murder. Using Soering's confession and Haysom's testimony, prosecutor Jim Updike successfully convinced a jury that his footprint resembled the bloody footprint found at the scene.

He was sentenced to two life terms.

For the first 15 years behind bars, in maximum and super-maximum security prisons, Soering said, "I saw myself as the victim of a young woman who was mentally ill."

But lately, his devotion to Christian meditation has allowed him to conclude that he bears some responsibility for what happened, though he still maintains his innocence.

"I could have prevented this crime," he said. "If I had not been as cowardly as I had been, this double murder would not have happened."

He was denied parole in 2003 but is eligible again next year.

"I sort of feel sorry for him," Gardner said. "He let this relationship with this girl ruin his life. I'm thoroughly convinced that he has convinced himself that he didn't do it."

Haysom has said little publicly since her arrest and declined a request to be interviewed for this story.

She has been turned down twice for parole but is eligible each year until 2032, when she will have to be released under the state's mandatory parole guidelines. A Canadian citizen, she will face a federal deportation hearing when she is either paroled or released.

The former honors students continue to display their intelligence through their writings. Soering has written "The Way of the Prisoner," about Christian meditation, and "An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform From an Insider's Perspective," as well as a number of compelling articles on prison violence. His third book, "Convict Christ," is due to be published soon.

Haysom, too, has written about prison life and her religious faith for magazines and newspapers.

Reid and Gardner are unflinching in their belief that they solved the crime. Gardner has been interviewed so many times over the years that he keeps a special briefcase with crime scene photos, copies of letters and newspaper clippings about the case.

"Both of them are right where they should be," Gardner said. "If ever there were a pair that need to be punished, it's them."



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