Born on 11th April 1963 in Barbados, June and Jennifer Gibbions were the daughters of housewife Gloria and Air Force technician Aubrey Gibbons. The family shifted from Barbados to Wales soon after the sisters were born. Inseparable since birth, the twins pretty much kept to themselves; communicating with their own parents only when required. In Wales, since they were the only black kids in their school, the twins were bullied and taunted. This further hampered their communication with the outside world, to a point where they created a language of their own which no one other than them understood.
Worried that something was wrong with their daughters, June and Jennifer’s parents started consulting and taking them to many therapists in order to get them to talk to others. Alas, with no luck. By this time, the girls were over 14 years old and were being excluded from the social circle at school and ignored by society in general. To make matters worse, they refused to confide or open up to anybody else, be it parents or therapists. In order to break this unhealthy bond, they were sent to separate boarding schools. However, this had an adverse affect and the girls became entirely withdrawn when they parted.
Infamous as the ‘Silent Twins’, it was only after the parents and doctors realized that separating them was taking a toll on the twins that they reunited June and Jennifer. After coming back home from their separate boarding schools stints, the twins spent the next few years in isolation. They spent days on end by themselves in their bedroom. There, they kept themselves entertained by writing and enacting stories and plays.
The dolls that the twins owned played important roles in these enactments. Then, in the Christmas of 1979, they received diaries as gifts. From then onwards, June and Jennifer started writing veraciously in their diaries. They would write over three thousand words a day. That’s how much of an interest they took in writing down their thoughts. In these very pages, the sisters poured out their inner most thoughts. One such entry in June’s diary read, “Nobody suffers the way I do, not with a sister; with a husband, yes; with a wife, yes; with a child, yes, but this sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment.”
This habit of writing lead to a gleam of hope for the sisters. They aspired to be published authors and undertook a course in creative writing via mail order. During this time, each sister wrote several novels. Their stories explored themes of love, loss and crime. Set primarily in Malibu, California, the stories written by the sisters generally had sinister plots. For example, Pepsi-Cola Addict, a story written by June, was about a high-school hero who is seduced by his school teacher. Due to this, the hero is sent away to a penitentiary where a homosexual prison guard makes advances at him and the hero then has to fight him off. Another example is of Jennifer’s The Pugilist, a story where a doctor wants to save his child’s life. Due to this, he kills the family dog in order to obtain its heart for a transplant.
A twist in the plot comes when the dog’s spirit lives on in the child and it ultimately avenges its death. Jennifer also went on to write Discomania, The Taxi-Driver’s Son and even a radio play called Postman and Post woman. Back then, a self-publishing press called New Horizons published their books and collection of short stories. However, the sisters’ writings failed to make an impact on the readers. June and Jennifer also attempted to sell their short stories to magazines, but were unsuccessful in this endeavor.
Their love life was not without drama. They did have a brief fling with some sons of a US Navy serviceman. Unfortunately, that did not lead anywhere. By now, due to their own behavior, they were being treated as outcasts. They used to be ignored most of the times by people around them. So the Silent Twins found another way to get noticed; they started engaging in criminal mischief. Choking each other, petty theft and even arson (they successfully burnt buildings to the ground) were few of the criminal activities they indulged in. It was due to arson that they landed up in a court room. The presiding judge ruled that the twin’s abnormal behavior along with their severe social disorders were strong enough basis for them to be put in confinement. He sentenced them to Broadmoor Hospital. Yes, the same high-security mental facility where legendary British gangster Ronnie Kray spent the rest of his life.
At the Broadmoor Hospital facility, the doctors found the sisters’ behavior highly disturbing and even dangerous. And the tests that the doctors conducted on the sisters proved that June and Jennifer were deeply disturbed psychologically. The doctors observed that the sisters would take turns eating, while one ate one day, the other starved. The next day, the one who had starved the previous day would eat while the other did not even touch food. And, though they were put up in cells located at opposite ends of the hospital, the nurses often found the sisters frozen in the same distinct poses. The sisters stayed at the Broadmoor Hospital for 11 years. Until the doctors agreed to transfer them to a low-security facility named Caswell Clinic.
By now, the ‘Silent Twins’ had created a lot of buzz and people had started calling them zombies. The story about the twins intrigued Sunday Times investigative journalist Marjorie Wallace and she befriended June and Jennifer in the 1980s and started investigating their lives. She even wrote about the twins’ life and the mysterious end of Jenifer in the 1986 biography ‘The Silent Twins’.
In the March of 1993, 31 years old June and Jennifer Gibbons were being transferred to Caswell Clinic. Upon arrival however, Jennifer appeared unresponsive and doctors immediately rushed her to a hospital where she was pronounced dead. How did she die? What was the cause of death? Poison maybe? But doctors found no evidence of it in Jennifer’s system. Then how? Well, it was due to Acute myocarditis- a sudden inflammation of the heart muscle. In a statement made after Jennifer’s death, June said that “Jennifer simply placed her head on my shoulder. She then took her last breath, and said, ‘At long last, we’re out.’ ”
But there’s more to the story. It appears that the sisters had made a pact. That only one of them would survive the relocation from Broadmoor Hospital to Caswell Clinic. That in order for one sister to live in peace, the other would have to die. One of them had to leave, so the other could lead a normal life. According to Marjorie Wallace, during her final visit at Broadmoor Hospital to meet the twins, Jennifer had unexpectedly stated over a cup of tea, “Marjorie, Marjorie, I’m going to have to die.” When Marjorie asked her why, Jennifer had said, “Because we decided.”
After Jennifer’s death in the year 1993, June tried to have a “normal life”. However, her past kept getting in the way. June and Jennifer did have other siblings as well. Recently, their older sister Greta broke her silence about the mysterious twins and told MailOnline, “They should never have been held in Broadmoor. I know they did wrong but they didn’t kill anyone. It totally ruined their lives. Jenny should never have died – she was only 29 years old and should not have been discharged if she was not fit enough. She should have been in hospital. And June could have had a much better life. She has never married or had children or fulfilled her ambition to be a writer.”
According to Marjorie Wallace, the twins failed to get the help they so desperately needed. Had they received psychological help in time, they could have managed to live normal lives. Instead, they were sent away to a high-security hospital for 12 years where the sisters had further bad influence since they were cell mates with murderers, rapists and severely disturbed patients.
Greta also said that June now lives in a rented house and rarely goes out. She does visit her family time to time though. She told MailOnline, “June has had lots of offers to go on shows, but she is too quiet for that. She doesn’t go out much. She used to work in the Barnardo’s charity shop but she now cleans for my Mum on Mondays. We do have some fun. We went to Scotland last August for five days to visit the Edinburgh Tattoo and she really enjoyed that.”
Wondering about Jennifer? Well, she is buried under a headstone with an engraving of a poem written by June. It reads- “We once were two/We two made one/We no more two/Through life be one/Rest in peace.”