Two former University of Virginia students are being questioned in London this week by Virginia authorities investigating the bloody, occult-style stabbing deaths last year of the parents of one of the students.
Elizabeth R. Haysom, 23, daughter of the slain couple from rural Bedford County in southwestern Virginia, and Jens Soering, 19, the son of a West German diplomat stationed in Detroit, are being detained in London on check fraud charges and are scheduled to appear in British courts Monday on those charges.
Bedford County Commonwealth Attorney James W. Updike Jr. and county investigator Ricky Gardner traveled to England to interview the students, who disappeared abruptly from school last fall, according to Sheriff Carl H. Wells. He said the students have not been named as suspects in the slayings.
Wells said the two students had been questioned last year, along with other persons, after the April 1985, slayings of retired steel executive Derek Haysom, 72, and his wife, Nancy Astor Haysom, 53.
Derek Haysom, a native of South Africa, was a Canadian citizen. Officials said Nancy Haysom was related to Lady Astor, the first woman to sit in the British House of Commons.
The Roanoke Times & World-News, which first reported this week that local authorities were in London, quoted Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Peter Shepperson as saying the two former students "are now suspects in the double murder."
Wells said it was the worst crime he has encountered.
"I've been living with this thing 24 hours a day, seven days a week for over a year," Wells said yesterday. "I'm anxious to bring this thing to a close."
According to authorities and press accounts, the elder Haysom, found in the living room of the couple's $150,000 home near Lynchburg, was stabbed three dozen times and his wife, found in the kitchen, was stabbed six times. Their throats had been slashed.
Britain's Press Association news service reported that the couple's blood was used to draw a triangle and was smeared throughout the house. Reports said all the furniture in the house was turned to face north.
The news service cited unnamed detectives saying the figure 666 -- a sign for the devil -- was carved in the floor and that the killers apparently had danced barefoot in the blood.
Sheriff Wells and other local authorities yesterday declined to comment on the British reports.
Wells said authorities talked to the students and other family members before the daughter and Soering left for Europe.
Wells said Elizabeth Haysom, who described herself to British courts as a writer with no fixed address, was removed as executor of the will after her disappearance. She is the only child of the slain couple, who had five children from previous marriages.
The Roanoke papers quoted a son, Julian Haysom, an engineer in Nova Scotia, as being surprised by the new developments in the case, saying the family had cooperated fully with authorities.
"All the members of the family were cleared," Haysom said. "I just can't believe the police have all that much to go on. What can I say? She's my loving sister."
Haysom and Soering have been denied bail since they were arrested May 1 on charges they attempted to defraud various British banks.
The two appeared separately before a British magistrate, but no mention of the slayings was made, according to the British news service.