The son of a German diplomat – who spent more than 33 years in prison in the US for a double murder he claims he did not commit – has arrived in his home country after being released on parole.
Jens Soering, who was flanked by supporters and reporters after landing in Frankfurt, said it was “the best day of my life”.
“I would never have managed it without these people who supported me for years”, the 53-year-old added, following his deportation.
Since being jailed, many people have campaigned for his release, including crime author John Grisham, Hollywood star Martin Sheen – and police, who have re-examined the evidence using new forensic techniques.
Soering continued: “I have a lot of wonderful friends in America, a lot of them police officers.
“And that’s the only reason I’m here – because so many came forward and investigated this case and found out the truth and they let me go.
“After 33 years, six months and 25 days, to finally, finally be back in Germany – it’s so great”.
He was convicted of murdering the parents of his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Haysom – a Canadian citizen – in 1985 and was sentenced to life five years later, before being granted parole last month.
Nancy and Derek Haysom’s throats were slashed and they were stabbed nearly 50 times on the outskirts of Lynchburg, Virginia – with the crime attracting national media attention in America.
Their daughter Elizabeth Haysom was serving a 90-year sentence as an accessory, but was also granted parole last month and ordered to be deported after her release.
The pair met when they were students at the University of Virginia – and fled before they became the main suspects.
They were eventually arrested in London – and while Haysom did not fight her extradition, Soering did – and he was only sent back to the US after a four-year legal battle.
During his 1990 trial – one of the first to be televised live – Haysom testified against him, telling the court she manipulated him into committing the murders because her parents wanted to end their daughter’s relationship with him.
To this day, he has maintained that Haysom was to blame and that she had only told him about what happened after their deaths.
Mr Soering – who was serving a life sentence in Virginia – had 14 previous parole attempts rejected.
He had also petitioned for a pardon many times – and in his applications, he and his lawyers said DNA evidence, unavailable at the time of his conviction, pointed to his innocence.
The DNA analyses showed that some of the Type O blood found at the scene did not belong to him – nor could it have belonged to Haysom, who has Type B blood.
Soering has suggested in many interviews that Haysom must have got others to help in the killings.
He initially confessed to the murders, but later said he only did so because he thought his father’s status as a diplomat would provide him immunity in the US.
He also believed that he would serve a short juvenile sentence in Germany while sparing Haysom the possibility of the electric chair.
Among those meeting him at the airport was Peter Beyer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party and the government’s coordinator for trans-Atlantic relations.
Soering’s mother died while he was in prison – and he has said he is now estranged from his father.
He did not reveal where he planned to live in Germany and did not take questions at the airport.
He asked reporters to respect his privacy for the next few weeks while he tries to settle back into society.