Ursula and Sabina Eriksson
Ursula Eriksson and Sabina Eriksson (born 1967) are Swedish twin sisters who came to national attention in the United Kingdom in May 2008. The twins had been in Ireland before travelling to the UK and boarding a bus for London in Liverpool. Their odd behaviour after exiting the bus at a service station on the M6 motorway caused the driver not to allow them back on board. The two were later seen on the central reservation of the M6 motorway. When Highways England Traffic Officers arrived to assist the women, they ran across the busy motorway, as captured by a small television crew. Ursula managed to dodge traffic, but Sabina was knocked over. Shortly after police arrived, the women again dashed onto the motorway and were struck by oncoming vehicles. Ursula suffered serious injuries, and when Sabina regained consciousness, she refused medical aid and attacked a police officer, at which point she was arrested and sedated.
Appearing calm, although a bit "odd", Sabina was processed by police in Stoke-on-Trent and was later released from custody. Shortly afterwards she was seen and taken in by Glenn Hollinshead, of Fenton, Staffordshire, whom she suddenly stabbed to death the next day. Sabina was then pursued running from the scene and arrested in hospital after jumping from a bridge onto a busy trunk road. Despite these incidents, there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved in the incidents on the M6 or the killing of Hollinshead. Sabina later pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility, after an apparent episode of folie à deux (or "shared psychosis"), a rare psychiatric disorder in which delusional beliefs are transmitted from one individual to another. Ursula was released from hospital after recovering, but Sabina was sentenced to five years imprisonment and released on parole in 2011 before returning to Sweden.
Sabina Eriksson and her identical twin sister, Ursula Eriksson, were born in Sweden on 3 November 1967, and grew up in Sunne, Värmland, with an older sister named Mona and an older brother named Björn. In their youth there was no apparent history of mental health issues or criminal convictions, and by the year 2000, Ursula was living in the U.S. while Sabina was living in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland with her partner and two children.
Ursula visited Sabina on Friday 16 May 2008, but for reasons that were unclear, the suddenly inseparable sisters secretly departed Sabina's home for Liverpool, England. Probably travelling by ferry, they arrived in Liverpool at 8:30am on Saturday, and quickly went into St Anne Street Police Station, apparently in order to report concerns over the safety of Sabina's children. It is unclear why they thought this could not have been reported in Ireland, but the Liverpool Police did contact Dublin to follow up the request, learning that Sabina had had a fight with her partner the previous night. At around 11:30am that morning, again for reasons unknown, the pair then boarded a National Express coach headed to London.
A police report stated that the twins suddenly disembarked from the bus at Keele services, a motorway service station, as they were not feeling well. The driver of the bus, however, said he left them at Keele services, even though it was not a scheduled rest stop, at around 1:00pm after becoming suspicious of their erratic behaviour. He noticed the twins clinging their bags tightly to and did not let them re-board because they refused to let him search their bags for illegal items. The manager of the service station was informed and, also feeling suspicious of the pair's demeanour, movements, and fixation on their bags, she called the police. Officers arrived to talk to them but left after deeming that the women seemed harmless.
Running onto the motorway
As seen on closed-circuit television cameras, the pair departed the services on foot and began to walk down the central reservation of the M6 before attempting to cross it, causing chaos to the traffic and picking up minor injuries in the attempt – Sabina having been struck by a SEAT Leon. Their elder brother claimed in a Swedish newspaper that his sisters were fleeing from maniacs who were chasing them. Highways Agency officers responded to the incident, and police from the Central Motorway Police Group were called to assist. The police were accompanied by a small television crew who happened to be filming Motorway Cops with the officers. Standing on the north direction hard shoulder of the motorway, the police were being appraised of the situation when, without warning, Ursula broke free and ran into the side of an oncoming Mercedes-Benz Actros 2546 articulated lorry travelling at around 56 mph (90 km/h). Sabina then quickly followed her into the road and was hit head-on by a Volkswagen Polo travelling at high speed.
Both survived. Ursula was immobilised as the lorry had crushed her legs, and Sabina spent fifteen minutes unconscious. The pair were treated by paramedics; however, Ursula resisted medical aid by spitting, scratching, and screaming. Ursula told the policemen restraining her, "I recognise you – I know you're not real", and Sabina, now conscious, shouted "They're going to steal your organs". To the surprise of the police, Sabina got to her feet, despite attempts to persuade her to stay on the ground. Sabina started screaming for help and calling for the police even though they were present, then hit an officer in the face, before running into traffic on the other side of the motorway. Emergency workers and several members of the public caught up with her, restrained, and carried her to a waiting ambulance, at which point she was handcuffed and sedated. Given the similarities in their behaviours, a suicide pact or drug use was quickly suspected.
Ursula was taken to hospital by air ambulance. Sabina was taken to hospital where, despite her ordeal and an apparent lack of concern over her sister's injuries, she soon became calmer and controlled, and was released five hours later. In police custody she remained relaxed, and while being processed, she told an officer, "We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows – maybe two." On 19 May 2008, Sabina was released from court without a full psychiatric evaluation having pleaded guilty to the charges of trespass on the motorway and hitting a police officer. The court sentenced her to one day in custody which she had been deemed to have served having spent a full night in police custody.
The killing of Glenn Hollinshead
Leaving court, Sabina began to wander the streets of Stoke-on-Trent, trying to locate her sister in the hospital, and carrying her possessions in a clear plastic bag given to her by police. She was also wearing her sister's green top. At 7:00pm, two local men spotted Sabina while walking a dog on Christchurch Street, Fenton. One of the men was 54-year-old Glenn Hollinshead – a self-employed welder, qualified paramedic, and former RAF airman, and the other was his friend, Peter Molloy. Sabina appeared friendly and stroked the dog as the three struck up a conversation. Although friendly, Sabina appeared to be behaving nervously, which worried Molloy. Sabina asked the two men for directions to any nearby bed and breakfasts or hotels.
Hollinshead took pity upon her and instead offered to take her back to his house at nearby Duke Street. Sabina accepted and relaxed as she began to relate how she was trying to locate her hospitalised sister. Back at the house, over drinks, her odd behaviour continued by constantly getting up and looking out of the window, leading Molloy to assume that she had run away from an abusive partner. She appeared paranoid too, most notably offering the men cigarettes, only to quickly snatch them out of their mouths, claiming they may be poisoned. Shortly before midnight Molloy left and Sabina stayed the night.
The next day around midday, Hollinshead called his brother regarding local hospitals in order to locate Sabina's sister Ursula. At 7:40pm, while a meal was being prepared, Hollinshead left the house to ask a neighbour for tea bags and then went back inside. One minute later he staggered back outside, now bleeding, and told him "She stabbed me", before collapsing to the ground and quickly dying from his injuries.
As the neighbour dialled 999, Sabina fled the premises, and was caught on the run by nearby CCTV. She ran out of the house with a hammer, periodically hitting herself over the head with it. A passing motorist saw this and decided to tackle her in an attempt to take control of the hammer. While wrestling with him, Sabina screamed and took a roof tile out of her pocket and struck him on the back of the head with it, stunning him temporarily. By this time paramedics had found her and gave chase. The pursuit ended at Heron Cross when Sabina jumped from a 12-metre (40 ft) high bridge onto the A50. Breaking both ankles and fracturing her skull in the fall, she was taken to hospital.
On 6 June 2008 she was arrested while recovering at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, and was discharged in a wheelchair on 11 September 2008, at which point she was taken into custody and charged with murder the same day. Ursula was also released from hospital in September, and relocated uneventfully back to Sweden, and then the US. The trial was scheduled for February 2009, but was adjourned after the court encountered difficulties in obtaining her medical records from Sweden. The trial was then scheduled to start on 1 September 2009.
Sabina pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility on 2 September 2009, having stabbed her victim five times with a kitchen knife. At no point during her interrogation or during the trial did she explain her actions, only replying "no comment" to extensive police questioning. Similarly, at no time was the video from the M6 used in evidence in the court. Both the prosecution and defence claimed that Sabina was insane at the time of the killing, although she had become sane again by the time of her trial. The defence counsel in the trial claimed that Eriksson was a "secondary" sufferer of folie à deux, influenced by the presence or perceived presence of her twin sister – the "primary" sufferer. The court also heard that she had suffered from a rare psychiatric disorder which made her hear voices, but could not interpret what they said, as well as an alternative theory that she had suffered from acute polymorphic delusional disorder. Her plea was accepted by the prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court on 2 September 2010. Justice Saunders concluded that Sabina had a "low" level of culpability for her actions:
I understand that this sentence will seem entirely inadequate to the relatives of the deceased. However, I have sentenced on the basis that the reason for the killing was the mental illness and therefore the culpability of the defendant is low and therefore the sentence I have passed is designed to protect the public. It is not designed to reflect the grief the relatives have suffered or to measure the value of Mr Hollinshead's life. No sentence that I could pass could do that. It is a sentence which I hope fairly measures a truly tragic event.
[Sabina was] suffering from delusions which she believed to be true and they dictated her behaviour. It is not one of those cases where the defendant could have done something to avoid the onset.
Sabina was sentenced to five years in prison and was sent to Bronzefield Women's Prison, where she turned to Christianity. Having already spent 439 days in custody before sentencing, this left her first eligible for release in 2011.
Many questions were left unanswered, and Detective Superintendent Dave Garrett stated that "the reasons for the two events may never be truly known or understood but the taking of Glenn's life was a violent and senseless act". Some called for an investigation into the way the criminal justice system handled the matter, including Peter Molloy and MP for Stoke South Robert Flello. Garry Hollinshead, brother of the man killed by Sabina, was critical of the justice system which he viewed as enabling Sabina to kill his brother, stating:
"We don't hold her responsible, the same as we wouldn't blame a rabid dog for biting someone. She is ill and to a large degree, not responsible for her actions. But her mental disorder should have been recognised much earlier."
"I do question the criminal justice system for allowing somebody like this to be let out when she is capable of committing such a crime. Her mental condition should have been properly assessed after what she did on the motorway and the experiences the police had. Her mental disorder should have been picked up prior to her being let out in to the community... [Glenn] saw Eriksson in distress and was just trying to help. He wasn't slow in coming forward to help somebody in distress. It was in his nature. He was trying to help. He would help anybody. If he saw a fight in the street and a guy was losing he would help."
- 2010 – Madness in the Fast Lane is the BBC documentary, first broadcast on BBC One on 10 August, which brought the story of the twins and the killing of Hollinshead to public attention. The footage on the M6 motorway of the two women jumping into the passing traffic had previously been broadcast on Motorway Cops, but this was the first time the rest of the story had been told.
- 2012 – A Madness Shared By Two , David Cann ISBN 0956848915
- 2017 – Case 17 - The Eriksson Twins. Casefile True Crime Podcast
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- Madness in the Fast Lane, official BBC page
- Casefile True Crime Podcast - Case 17: The Eriksson Twins - 30 April 2016
- Women dice with death on M6, BBC News, 25 September 2008