|Ursula and Sabina Eriksson, born 1967, are a pair of Swedish twins who
came to national attention in the United Kingdom in 2008 after an
apparent episode of folie à deux which resulted in unique footage of insanity on the M6 motorway and
the killing of Glenn Hollinshead.
No drugs or alcohol were involved in
any of the incidents. Their actions have never been explained,
other than by a rare, induced delusional disorder which caused the pair
to be temporarily insane.
The twins met in Ireland before traveling
to England. After their odd behavior caused them to be left at an M6
service station, they ran on to the motorway numerous times and were
struck by oncoming vehicles, causing Ursula to be incapacitated.
refused medical aid and attacked a police officer, at which point she
was arrested. After being released by police in Stoke-on-Trent, Sabina
then was taken in by a local resident whom she later killed in an
She was arrested after jumping off a bridge into a
busy road and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter with diminished
responsibility. She was sentenced to five years imprisonment and is
scheduled for release in mid-2011.
Once in Liverpool, at 08:30 on May 17th, 2008, the twins went into a police station to report concerns over Sabina's children. Soon after this the pair boarded a National Express coach to London.
A police report stated that the twins suddenly disembarked the coach at Keele services, a motorway service station, as they were not feeling well. The driver of the coach, however, left them at Keele services after becoming suspicious of their behavior.
He noticed the twins clinging tightly to their bags 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, called the police.
Officers arrived to talk to the pair, but left after deeming the pair to be harmless.
Running onto the motorway
The pair began to walk down the central reservation of the M6 motorway before attempting to cross the motorway, causing chaos to the traffic and picking up minor injuries in the attempt. Their elder brother claimed in a Swedish newspaper that his sisters were fleeing from maniacs who were chasing them.
Caught on CCTV cameras, the police arrived to investigate and paramedics were also at the scene to treat the women. Along with the police came a small television crew who happened to be filming Motorway Cops with one of the officers.
Sabina later told an officer at the police station, "We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows – maybe two."
Standing on the hard shoulder of the motorway, the police spoke to the twins when, without warning, Ursula ran in front of an oncoming 40-tonne truck traveling at around 60-70 mph.
Sabina then followed her into the road and was hit by a Volkswagen Polo traveling at high speed. Both survived. Ursula in particular was fortunate not to be killed instantly. Instead, she was immobilized as the lorry had crushed her legs.
Sabina spent fifteen minutes unconscious. The pair were treated by the paramedics; however both women resisted medical aid, fighting and screaming at the paramedics and police officers.
Sabina shouted "They're going to steal your organs" and "I recognize you – I know you're not real".
Sabina got to her feet, whereupon a policewoman attempted to persuade her to stay on the ground and receive further medical attention.
Sabina instead struck the officer and crossed the central reservation again, running into traffic on the other side of the motorway.
Emergency workers and several members of the public caught up with her, restrained her and carried her to a waiting ambulance, at which point she was sedated. Ursula was also taken to hospital where she stayed for weeks.
The killing of Glenn Hollinshead
Sabina appeared less deranged and more calm and relaxed in police custody. On May 19th, 2008 she was released from court without a full psychiatric evaluation having pleaded guilty to trespass on the motorway and assault on Police.
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. Leaving court she began to wander the streets of Stoke-on-Trent, seemingly attempting to reach her sister in hospital, carrying her possessions in a clear plastic bag given to her by police.
At 19:00, two local men spotted Sabina whilst 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 worker.
The other man was his friend Peter Molloy. Sabina appeared friendly and stroked the dog as the three people struck up a conversation. Although friendly, Sabina appeared to be behaving oddly and this odd behaviour 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 Duke Street, Fenton.
Sabina accepted the offer and the three walked to the house, as Sabina told the men how she was trying to locate her hospitalized sister.
Back at the house her odd behavior continued; most notably she offered the men cigarettes, only to quickly snatch them out of their mouths as the men smoked them, claiming the cigarettes to be poisoned.
She was also carrying multiple mobile phones, as well as a laptop. She appeared to be paranoid and constantly looked outside the windows; this behavior caused Molloy to assume that she had run away from an abusive partner.
Shortly before midnight Molloy left the two, and Sabina stayed the night in Hollinshead's home. The next day, Hollinshead called the local hospitals in order to locate Sabina's sister Ursula.
At 19:40, Hollinshead came outside of the house to ask a neighbor for tea bags. After receiving the tea bags he returned inside. One minute after returning inside he staggered back outside to the neighbor and told him "she stabbed me", before collapsing to the ground.
Sabina had stabbed him four times with a kitchen knife and Hollinshead died from his injuries. Sabina fled the premises and the neighbor dialed 999.
Sabina's flight from capture
Sabina ran out of the house with a hammer, periodically hitting herself over the head with it. A passing motorist, Joshua Grattage, saw this extraordinary behavior and decided to tackle her in an attempt to confiscate the hammer.
While wrestling with Grattage, Sabina 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 was ended at Heron Cross when Sabina jumped from a 40 ft high bridge onto the A50. Having broken bones in the fall, she was taken to hospital.
On June 6th, 2008 she was arrested while recovering at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, and was later discharged from hospital on the 11th of September, at which point she was charged with murder.
Garry Hollinshead, brother of the man killed by Sabina, was critical of the police response which he viewed as enabling Sabina to kill his brother. "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 recognized 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."
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 police handled the matter, including Peter Malloy and MP for Stoke South Robert Flello.
Sabina Eriksson is currently serving her sentence at Bronzefield top security prison for women and will be eligible for parole this year. Ursula Eriksson has returned to the United States and is still in touch with Sabina.
Ursula and Sabina Eriksson, identical twin sisters, grew up in Sunne, Värmland, in western Sweden with their older brother in poor conditions. Perceived to be odd by their peers, they were regularly bullied as children.
They had left their homeland Sweden for different countries in 2003. Sabina had settled in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland, and Ursula had settled in the United States.
The two met up in Ireland, and on May 16th, 2008 traveled to Liverpool, England. Sabina apparently left no note behind for her husband and two children. The twins were aged 41 at the time of the incidents.
Standing on the hard shoulder of the motorway, the police spoke to the twins when, without warning, Ursula ran in front of an oncoming 40-tonne truck travelling at around 60-70 mph.
Sabina then followed her into the road and was hit by a Volkswagen Polo traveling at high speed. Both survived. Ursula in particular was fortunate not to be killed instantly.
Instead, she was immobilized as the lorry had crushed her legs. Sabina spent fifteen minutes unconscious.
Folie à deux (from the French for "a madness shared by two") (or shared psychosis) is a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another.
Recent psychiatric classifications refer to the syndrome as shared psychotic disorder and induced delusional disorder. The disorder was first conceptualized in 19th century French psychiatry.
This syndrome is most commonly diagnosed when the two or more individuals concerned live in proximity and may be socially or physically isolated and have little interaction with other people.
Various sub-classifications of folie à deux have been proposed to describe how the delusional belief comes to be held by more than one person.
Folie imposée is where a dominant person (known as the 'primary', 'inducer' or 'principal') initially forms a delusional belief during a psychotic episode and imposes it on another person or persons (known as the 'secondary', 'acceptor' or 'associate') with the assumption that the secondary person might not have become deluded if left to his or her own devices.
If the parties are admitted to hospital separately, then the delusions in the person with the induced beliefs usually resolve without the need of medication.
Folie simultanée describes either the situation where two people considered to suffer independently from psychosis influence the content of each other's delusions so they become identical or strikingly similar, or one in which two people "morbidly predisposed" to delusional psychosis mutually trigger symptoms in each other.
Folie à deux and its more populous cousins are in many ways a psychiatric curiosity. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders states that a person cannot be diagnosed as being delusional if the belief in question is one "ordinarily accepted by other members of the person's culture or subculture".
It is not clear at what point a belief considered to be delusional escapes from the folie à... diagnostic category and becomes legitimate because of the number of people holding it.
When a large number of people may come to believe obviously false and potentially distressing things based purely on hearsay, these beliefs are not considered to be clinical delusions by the psychiatric profession and are labelled instead as mass hysteria.
Telepathy has been another theory as to possibly why Ursula and Sabina Eriksson acted as they did. Telepathy is the transference of thoughts or feelings between two or more subjects through Psi. There has been some evidence which may indicate that twins may be able to possess this more so than the average person.