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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 - Truecrimezine.com
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
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.
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
“I wish they were dead,” she said.
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
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
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
Haysom-Soering: Parent-killer speaks out about
By Lisa Provence - Readthehook.com
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
Starting in 1985, the Haysom double murder case
ranged from Virginia to England and ignited a three-year legal battle
By Jat Conley - Roanoke.com
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
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
'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.
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
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
She also harbored deep-rooted resentment against
her parents' overbearing control over everything she did, Haysom later
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
He was denied parole in 2003 but is eligible again
"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
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
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,