June and Jennifer Gibbons, later known as “The Silent Twins”, were born 11th April 1963 in Aden, Yemen. Growing up the twins had an inseparable bond. They went through absolutely everything together and were both very late to speaking; their main communication was through noises as they knew only around three or four words by the time they started school. The twins first started school in Devon after moving to the UK, where racism was a huge issue. Due to the twins barbadian background they were severely bullied, and quickly became very isolated because of this. The twins refused to speak to anyone (even their family), make eye contact with anyone, and seemed to create what could only be described as a “secret language”. That is, they would only speak to each other through very high pitched noises or very fast talking that only they could understand. This isolation carried through to the extent the twins refused to learn to read or write at school. Whilst this was concerning for the teachers, June and Jennifer’s parents believed it was nothing to worry about because they would grow out of it - they didn’t. The family moved again to Haverfordwest in Wales, where sadly the racism only worsened. The twins were bullied to such an extent that they were dismissed five minutes early every day from school so that they could get a head start on their journey home, because the bullying was so bad.
As seen in many twins, June and Jennifer were extremely synchronised. If June fell off a horse, Jennifer would fall off a horse and vice versa. This level of synchrony was arguably beyond the “norm” for twins and this was hugely noticeable to John Reed, a man who came to the twins’ school for vaccinations. He described the twins behaviour as almost trance like. When he gave the girls their vaccinations neither of them even flinched; they just stood there, lifeless. The school nurse reported this behaviour as through her increasing interest in the twins she, and the rest of the teachers, had noticed a lot of unusual behaviour from the girls. This resulted in June and Jennifer being taken to Haverfordwest Withybush Hospital in February 1977 for examination, and then transferred to a boarding school called East Gate Special Education Centre. The girls were sent here with purposeful intentions of trying to create two separate identities, therefore whilst Jennifer remained at Eastgate, June was sent to St David’s Adolescent Unit 30 miles away. This decision was extremely detrimental to the twins well being.
June and Jennifer literally became catatonic. They refused to eat, move or essentially do anything until they were reunited. On their sixteenth birthday the girls were finally reunited and were sent home. Here things did not improve at all. Despite being in the same house, June and Jennifer would never see their family. If they wanted to watch the television they would pass a note through the door to their family and then the family would have to leave the door ajar so that they could sit in the hallway and watch the tv through the door. To keep themselves occupied the girls wrote diaries about their lives and crime novels. They were extremely excited about this and decided to go self published, with huge aspirations of making it big. The response was very very limited and this had a huge effect on them. June and Jennifer began leaving their rooms but only ever to commit crimes, do drugs, or hurt each other. They turned to theft and arson because, as June wrote, “No friends. Nothing else to do. Nothing to fill the cold hour.” The girls were arrested for one instance of arson and were sent to a remand centre. They carried on writing their diaries, however the girls could not stand the sight of each other here. Their diary entries quickly escalated into multiple accounts about wanting to kill each other.
The twins hatred for each other kept growing and growing, until eventually they were sent to maximum security. Here, their behaviour became extremely unusual. One day June would starve herself whilst Jennifer would completely over indulge, and then the next day they would swap over. Eerily, even when the girls were at other ends of the hospital and therefore unable to see each other, they would often be found completely frozen in the exact same position as each other. One day when a journalist who visited often came to see the girls, Jennifer completely out of the blue said “I am going to have to die...because we have decided”. The journalist was understandably completely taken aback by this, however her best understanding was that the twins had decided that one of them would have to give up their life so that the other could begin to live a normal and free life. The twins had decided that this day would be the day they were transferred to another clinic.
In March 1993 at the age of 31 June and Jennifer were transferred to the clinic. When they arrived Jennifer was completely unresponsive, and tragically passed away. This was exactly the day that the twins had planned for Jennifer to die, however results of the autopsy showed that Jennifer died from completely natural causes. There was absolutely no intervention from either of the girls; they decided on the date and through natural causes Jennifer actually did give up her life. On Jennifer’s headstone June had written a poem that read “We were once two, we two made one, we no more two, through life be one. Rest in peace”.