Back in 2008, the BBC was filming an episode of Motorway Cops – a show that follows the work of traffic police – on the M6 motorway. Unbeknown to the camera crew, they were about to capture a truly astonishing scene…
In 2008, Swedish twins Sabina and Ursula Eriksson, then 41, had been on a coach travelling from Liverpool to London. The coach stopped at a service station to change drivers, and the two women got off – even though it wasn’t a scheduled comfort stop. Their suspicious behaviour and refusal to allow their bags to be searched led to the driver banning them from returning to the coach, and they were thrown off…
The twins were soon spotted on CCTV walking down the central reservation of the M6 motorway, which is where the police involved with filming Motorway Cops spotted them, and approached them.
Escorting the two women to the hard shoulder, the police attempted to find out why the twins were risking their lives on the motorway. Then, suddenly – bizarrely – the women began repeatedly hurling themselves into the path of oncoming traffic…
Horror on the highway
Ursula, wearing a green coat, propelled herself across the lanes and was swept beneath the wheels of an articulated lorry travelling at 60mph. She was sucked beneath the vehicle before being spat out back onto the tarmac, her legs crushed.
Sabina, dressed in red, then calmly ran into the traffic and was struck by a car. After bouncing off the windshield and crushing the car’s hood with the impact, she was thrown into the neighbouring lane, and was knocked out.
Officers feared the worst. However, remarkably, both twins recovered consciousness – and, unbelievably, as police frantically attempted to tend to their injuries and keep them safe amid the dangers of the motorway, the twins began verbally and physically abusing them – screaming over and over again that the police were trying to ‘steal their organs’.
Both women seemed confused and they screamed for assistance from the police force, despite officers repeatedly telling them, ‘We are the police.’
To the horror of the officer trying to help her, Sabina fought to stand up – and then attempted to run into traffic again, on the other side of the motorway. When the police officer tried to stop her, Sabina punched her.
The petite, slim Sabina then became increasingly violent and displayed incredible strength, needing to be restrained – with difficulty – by several men, including members of the public who were witnessing the madness unfolding in front of them, before she was brought under control.
One man said, ‘She’s almost waving us around like rag dolls on her arms.’
The twins were rushed to hospital, where Ursula was taken to Intensive Care. Sabina was discharged after a few hours, and arrested for assaulting a police officer. But, after a matter of days, she was deemed fit for release.
Tragically, Sabina would go on to kill a local man – Glenn Hollinshead – who had taken pity on her after learning that she’d no place to sleep. Sabina stabbed Glenn four times with a kitchen knife in an unprovoked, fatal attack. She then took a hammer, hit herself on the head and leapt off a 40ft bridge – again, surviving with minimal injuries.
Sabina was sentenced to five years in jail for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, and was released on parole in 2011. Her motive for the murder remains a mystery – as do the twins’ terrifying behaviour on the M6.
Detective Superintendent Dave Garrett from Staffordshire Police said, ‘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.’
The most popular explanation as to why the twins acted so bizarrely on the motorway is that they suffered a case of folie a deux, or shared psychosis – in which two people have a shared delusion. It is extremely rare. Another explanation is an even rarer condition – bouffe delirante, or puff of madness, where a sane person suddenly loses their mind for a brief amount of time, and then returns to normal.
The footage captured by the BBC camera crew was later made into a documentary called Madness In The Fast Lane.