A pair of identical twins mirrored one another in everything … to include attempted murder.
Originally from Barbados, Jennifer and June Gibbons lived in the small town of Haverfordwest, Wales. As the only black girls, they felt out of place; this may have been one of the reasons they began to isolate from everyone except one another. The school releasing them early to escape bullying may have compounded their feelings. Eventually they refused to speak to anyone except a younger sister and used a “twin speak” or secret code to communicate. They spent the majority of their time in their bedroom.
A therapist attempted to teach them individuality to include horseback riding – but if June fell of her horse, Jennifer would “fall” as well. Sent to separate boarding schools, they became catatonic and withdrew further from others, refusing to take part in anything. Together they were creative, eventually isolating themselves in their room to play out scenes and stories using their dolls. Their novels included violent acts of crime. Despite being mirrors of one another in movement and action, each wrote prolific, individual journals … that included plans on killing the other.
“No friends. Nothing else to do. Nothing to fill the cold hour.” June wrote in her journal, so they began a life of petty crime that slowly evolved to attempted murder. They became thieves and arsonists, burning down a barn in 1982. Vandalism was added to their crimes. Then it turned serious when Jennifer strangled June with a telephone cord; June returned in kind when she tried drowning her sister. “This sister of mine, a dark shadow robbing me of sunlight, is my one and only torment” June penned in her journal.
At 18, for their five-week spree of crime, they were tried in court for the barn fire and sentenced to twelve years in Broadmoor, the infamous psychiatric hospital. Tests revealed both had above average intelligence and were extremely creative although having been labeled “psychopaths” by the court. Kept apart, each attempted suicide many times. They seemed to despise one another yet wrote they could not survive alone.
Then Jennifer and June Gibbons made a suicide pact: it was necessary one had to die and the other would live, begin to speak, and live a “normal” life. After many arguments they decided: Jennifer agreed to die so June could live. “I’m going to die. It’s been decided” a 39-year-old Jennifer told their biographer in 1993. Ten days later the twins were transferred to the less secure Caswell Clinic after spending 11 years in Broadmoor. As they departed Broadmoor for the last time, Jennifer’s body slumped against June’s. She could not be revived. The official cause of death was acute myocarditis (sudden inflammation of the heart). Numerous tests revealed there were no drugs or poison in her system. Still, her death remained a mystery. “We were war-weary. It had been a long battle – someone had to break the vicious circle” June told a friend.
June was released and in 2008 was living a “normal” life free of crime. At this last report she lived independently in West Wales near her parents and sister, and continued to journal. Author Marjorie Wallace wrote a book about the sisters called “The Silent Twins.”