The Twins Who Ran into Traffic Before Stabbing a Man to Death
The bizarre true story of the Eriksson sisters.
Ursula Eriksson running into traffic on the M6.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
"They're going to steal your organs!" screams Sabina Eriksson, before running toward oncoming traffic on the M6 highway, having already been hit head-on by a Volkswagen. Her twin sister, Ursula, legs crushed by the truck that had just run her over, is spitting and screaming at paramedics on the side of the road.
Ten years have passed since the world came to learn of the Eriksson Twins, the majority through footage of this bizarre roadside incident being broadcast to millions on the BBC show Traffic Cops, then the 2010 BBC documentary, Madness in the Fast Lane. They're also a popular topic in the conspiracy and mystery sections of Reddit—but a decade later, few could claim that they are any closer to understanding the chaos that occurred over two days in the UK's West Midlands in May 2008.
The commonly accepted timeline begins on Friday, May 16, when Sabina and Ursula Eriksson, two Swedish women in their late-30s, traveled to Liverpool—by ferry, it's believed, though nobody on said ferry has ever come forward to confirm they were seen—from Sabina's home in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland. Ursula had traveled from her home in the US to visit her twin sister. Once in Liverpool—arriving, it's believed, at 8:30 AM on Saturday, May 17—they both went to visit St. Anne Police Station, where Sabina reported concerns about the safety of her children back in Ireland. The police made contact with officers in Dublin and promised to follow the complaint up. At 11:30 AM, Sabina and Ursula boarded a National Express Coach to London. Again, no other traveler has ever come forward to say they were also on that coach.
The sisters left the coach at Keele service station—which isn't a scheduled rest stop—either because they were feeling unwell, as stated by the police report that would follow, or because, as the bus driver has claimed, they were acting erratically. The latter story goes that they both held onto their bags, having refused to put them in the luggage hold, and that the driver asked to search their luggage. When they refused, they were ordered off the vehicle. Once at the service station, they headed to the back of the complex. The service manager, also alarmed by their behavior, called the police. Her concern was that the twins were carrying explosives. The police came to speak to the women. Convinced they posed no threat of harm, either to the service station or themselves, the police allowed them to leave.
What happened next was extraordinary. Having seemingly left the service station on foot, the two sisters were spotted on security camera walking down the median of the M6 highway. Later, their elder brother, Björn, would claim they were fleeing from "maniacs," though nothing to confirm this has ever been released on film. They attempted to cross the road, Sabina being grazed by a red SEAT León sedan as they tried. Highway Agency officers headed to the scene, as did the Central Motorway Police Group, with camera operatives from the Traffic Cops program who were shadowing the unit at the time. They stopped the sisters. The situation appeared calm. The sisters stood smoking and chatting affably. Sabina was wearing a yellow visor with the ledger, "Time to Believe."
Then, as the arriving police were being briefed about the situation, Ursula suddenly ran into the road, her coat being pulled from her by a concerned officer as she attempted to free herself. She ran straight into the side of an oncoming truck. It was traveling, it's estimated, at 56mph. You can see her shoes strewn across the road in the wake of the collision. Seconds later, Sabina jumped into the road, smashing into the windshield of a Volkswagen Polo. Ursula's legs were crushed. Sabina was unconscious for approximately 15 minutes. Somehow they both survived.
After an air ambulance was called, Sabina started to come around and responded by immediately clawing and spitting at the police officer attempting to help her. She screamed, "I recognize you—you're not real." She made a claim about the theft of her organs. Then, miraculously, she rose to her feet and started screaming for the help of the police, seemingly unable to establish that the police were already there. Sabina began to ask, "Why do you kill me?" Then she punched a police officer in the face and bolted into the next highway. With nowhere to go, she took her red coat off and squared up with the police officers surrounding her, who eventually put her into handcuffs.
Searching the debris of the incident, the police found a number of broken cell phones.
The sisters were taken to the hospital. Ursula, her legs fractured, was admitted. Sabina, seemingly uninjured, was taken to the police station to be processed. She was much calmer by this point—but faux-frustrated that she had to take her jewelry off—a bit flirty, even. She commented to an officer, "We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows—maybe two." The following day, Sabina was released from court. She pleaded guilty to the charges of punching a police officer and trespassing on the highway, and was sentenced to one day in custody. Having spent a full night in the police station, she was deemed to have served her sentence. Remarkably, there had been no full psychiatric evaluation.
Sabina was now stranded in a city in England called Stoke-On-Trent, wearing Ursula's green top and carrying her possessions—including a laptop and £1,000 [$1,300] in cash—in a clear plastic bag, provided by police.
At around 7 PM, two local men out walking a dog stopped by Sabina. The dog belonged to Glenn Hollinshead, 54, a former RAF airman. His friend was Peter Molloy. Sabina asked if there were any B&Bs nearby. Glenn suggested they go back to his house, nearby. Sabina was nervy, but agreed. Once there, she couldn't stop peering out of the window. She offered the two men a cigarette, before snatching them out of their mouths before they could light them, claiming they might be "poisoned." Just before midnight, Peter Molloy left. Sabina stayed the night. The following day, at around 7:40 PM, Glenn made some food, before heading outside to ask his neighbor, Frank Booth, if he could borrow teabags. Under a minute later, he staggered outside, bleeding, telling Frank, "She stabbed me." His last words before he died, allegedly, were, "Look after my dog for me."
Frank called the police. Sabina fled. She was spotted running by a driver named Joshua Grattage. It was later said that she was hitting herself with a hammer at regular, if erratic, intervals. Grattage tried to restrain her and was hit by a roof tile Sabina had in her pocket. Eventually, she made it to a bridge, where she jumped 40 feet onto the A50 highway, breaking both her ankles and fracturing her skull.
It was the last act of madness Sabina Eriksson would commit—though certainly not the end of the madness.
Sabina was arrested on suspicion of murder, while convalescing at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, on June 9. Still in a wheelchair, she was discharged on September 11, charged, and taken into custody the same day. Ursula was released the same month. She made it back to America, via some time spent in Sweden. Never charged with a crime herself, she is now a member of the Sacred Heart Church in Belle Vue, Washington. Sabina's trial was due to start in February 2009, the following year, but ultimately didn't begin until September 1. There were reportedly problems in obtaining Sabina's medical records from Sweden.
On September 2, Sabina pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished responsibility. There was no explanation; every question put to her was greeted with the reply of "no comment." The video from the M6 highway was never shown. The prosecution and defense both claimed that Sabina was insane at the time of killing, though not at the time of the trial. The defense claimed that Sabina was a secondary sufferer of Folie à deux, French for "a madness of two," going on to claim that she had transmitted insanity from her twin Ursula. The prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court accepted this. Sabina received five years, to be served at Bronzefield Women's Prison.
Though this information is rarely included in the accepted timeline, on December 6, 2012, some footage was uploaded anonymously to the internet that should significantly change the understanding of the events ten years ago. Shot at the same time as the footage that aired in both Traffic Cops and Madness in the Fast Lane, it shows two police officers, standing in the shoulder of the M6 highway after the motorway incident, agreeing that the sisters should be given a "136"—a clause within the Mental Health Act that means the police can "hold" a person on account of their mental health, as well as having to give the detainee a mental health assessment. Neither of these things happened. It is believed that the police requested that BBC-Mentorn Productions, who shot the footage, remove the segment from the film. What this means is that Sabina should never have been released after just one day, meaning Glenn Hollinshead would never have met her, meaning Glenn Hollinshead never have been stabbed.
As to why he was stabbed, it's unlikely we'll ever know. Since her release from prison in 2011, Sabina Eriksson has disappeared. Her whereabouts are unknown.
UPDATE 9/14/18: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Sabina Eriksson's trial was due to start in February of 1999. This has now been corrected.