Ursula and Sabina Eriksson: On their own, these twins are perfectly normal, but together they are lethal!

When it comes to being unique in this world, twins indeed stand out. They share a bond with one another that their other siblings do not. Some go so far as to invent their own language that they may use to communicate with one another secretly. However, some twins are undoubtedly unique, but in a dark and terrible way, as were the Eriksson sisters.

Twin sisters Ursula and Sabina Eriksson made global headlines when a series of shockingly bizarre occurrences brought them to the attention of the entire nation. The pair fell victim to folie à deux (or “shared psychosis”), a rare and intense disorder that causes the psychotic delusions of one individual to transfer to the other. Their strange situation and psychosis even led to the murder of an innocent man.

We’ve already informed you about the strange rituals the Silent Sisters. When compared to the chaotic anti-logic imposed on each other by the Eriksson sisters, the Silent Sisters’ cryptophasia appears to be virtually harmless.

The Silent Twins: June and Jennifer Gibbons © Image Credit: ATI
The Silent Twins: June and Jennifer Gibbons © Image Credit: ATI

The case of Ursula and Sabina Eriksson

The identical Eriksson sisters were born on November 3, 1967, in Värmland, Sweden. Not much is known about their childhood except that they lived with their older brother and that conditions were poor. Up until 2008, Sabina had been living with her partner and children in Ireland with no sign of mental illness. It wasn’t until her troubled twin came to visit from America that things went off the deep end. Upon Ursula’s arrival, the two became inseparable. Then, they suddenly disappeared.

The M6 motorway incident

On Saturday 17 May 2008, the two traveled to Liverpool, where their strange behavior got them kicked off a bus. They decided to walk down the M6 motorway, but when they started actively disrupting traffic, the police had to step in. “We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows – maybe two,” Sabrina said cryptically to one of the officers. Suddenly, Ursula ran into a semi that was driving at 56 mph. Sabina soon followed and was hit by a Volkswagen.

Ursula and Sabina Eriksson
A still from BBC programme Traffic Cops which captured the moment the Eriksson twins jumped into the path of oncoming traffic © Image Credit: BBC

Both woman 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. After fifteen minutes of unconsciousness, Sabina woke up and was taken into custody by the police. Despite her ordeal and an apparent lack of concern over her sister’s injuries, she soon became calmer and controlled.

In police custody she remained relaxed, and while being processed, she told an officer again, “We say in Sweden that an accident rarely comes alone. Usually at least one more follows – maybe two.” This is what she cryptically said to one of the officers on the M6 motorway.

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. She was released from the custody.

The killing of Glenn Hollinshead

Ursula and Sabina Eriksson: On their own, these twins are perfectly normal, but together they are lethal! 1
The victim, Glenn Hollinshead © Image Credit: BBC

Leaving court, Sabina began to wander the streets of Stoke-on-Trent, trying to locate her sister in 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 7:00 pm, two local men spotted Sabina while walking their 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 and Molloy tried to help the seemingly terrified woman and offered she stay at Hollinshead’s house at nearby Duke Street. Sabina agreed, went and relaxed at the house as she began to relate how she was trying to locate her hospitalized sister.

Back at the house, over drinks, her odd behaviour continued as she constantly got up and looked out of the window, leading Molloy to assume that she had run away from an abusive partner. She appeared paranoid too, 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. Sabina stabbed Hollinshead five times with a kitchen knife.

Capture, trial and imprisonment of Sabina Eriksson

Sabina Eriksson
Sabina Eriksson in custody. © PA | Restored by MRU

As the neighbour dialled 999, Sabina emerged Hollinshead’s house with a hammer in her hand. She was continuously beating herself over the head with it. At one point, a passing man named Joshua Grattage tried to confiscate the hammer, but she knocked him out with a piece of roofing she had also been carrying.

Police and paramedics located Sabina and chased her all the way to a bridge, from which Sabina jumped off, falling 40ft onto a road. Breaking both ankles and fracturing her skull in the fall, she was taken to hospital. She was charged for murder the same day she left the hospital in a wheelchair.

The defense 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. Though they couldn’t interpret the rational reason behing the killing. Justice Saunders concluded that Sabina had a “low” level of culpability for her actions. Sabina was sentenced to five years in prison and was released on parole in 2011 before returning to Sweden.

To date, no one knows exactly what caused the twins’ shared hysteria, besides the apparent folie à deux between the two. An alternative theory is that they had also suffered from acute polymorphic delusional disorder. In a 2008 interview, their brother claimed the two were being chased by “maniacs” that day on the motorway.

Who were these “maniacs”? Did they actually exist, or was this just what the twins told their worried brother out of delusion? Either way, it’s shocking that two women could be in such a state to commit this crime.