Letitia Wright will play one of the twins in a new movie (Pictures: PA / Alpha Press / Focus Features)
The story of The Silent Twins is one that shocked and baffled the nation almost five decades ago.
June and Patricia Gibbons were raised in Wales from a young age and came to public attention after a crime spree that led the girls, who would not communicate with anyone but each other, to spend 11 years in Broadmoor Hospital under maximum security.
And now a film about their extraordinary story is set to be released with Black Panther star Letitia Wright as June.
Patricia will be portrayed by The Long Song and Kindred’s Patricia Lawrance.
Directed by The Lure’s Agnieszka Smoczynska, The Silent Twins is set to be released in the UK on December 9.
The film is set to bring renewed interest to a cast that, still to this day, has so many unanswered questions.
What really happened to June and Jennifer Gibbons in the ‘60s and why is the case so confusing?
Who were The Silent Twins?
Identical twins June and Jennifer were from Barbados and moved to the UK during the Windrush generation with their parents Gloria and Aubrey Gibbons.
However, they were actually born in Aden, Yemen on April 11, 1963 where their father worked as part of the Royal Air Force.
The family settled in Haverfordwest, Wales but struggled to fit in due to their accent and language which was Bajan Creole.
Their classmates found it difficult to understand them and they were the only Black children in the community, making their adjustment to British life immensely challenging.
The Gibbons sisters were ‘inseparable’
Why didn’t The Silent Twins speak?
Teachers noticed that the twins would only talk to themselves and refused to read and write.
They developed their own ‘secret language’ which nobody else could understand and it meant June and Jennifer became distant from their family, growing increasingly isolated.
It wasn’t until 1976 when a doctor arrived at their school to give students their TB (tuberculosis) jabs when the medic noticed their peculiar behaviour.
Unlike other students, June and Jennifer showed no emotion when getting the injection which prompted the doctor to contact a child psychiatrist.
After the psychiatrist session, the girls were taken to see a speech therapist at Withybush Hospital.
It was here where the therapist recorded them speaking and managed to decipher their ‘secret language’, which turned out to be a blend of England and Bajan slang spoken extremely quickly.
The following year, the twins’ parents agreed to separate them to see if their behaviour changed when they were apart.
Leah Mondesir Simmons and Eva-Arianna Baxter will portray the twins as young girls in The Silent Twins (Picture: PA)
However, June refused to cooperate and stopped physically moving, spending most of her time lying in bed at her residential care unit.
Staff who treated the girls struggled to determine whether there was a more dominant figure in their relationship.
Journalist and mental health campaigner Marjorie Wallace who knew the twins shared her thoughts on their relationship.
‘They had these rituals where they decided between them which one would wake first, which one would breathe first, and the other wasn’t allowed to breathe until the first one breathed,’ she revealed according to Wales Online.
‘It was like some sinister childhood game that got out of control.’
June and Jennifer were known for their love of writing.
Police later found a large stack of diaries, poems, essays, and short stories, some written about crime.
The Silent Twins will be released in UK cinemas in December (Picture: BBC Pictures)
They had such a talent for storytelling that June’s book – titled Pepsi Cola Addict – about a student being seduced by a teacher was self-published.
Why were The Silent Twins arrested?
Their behaviour took another unexpected turn in October 1981, when they embarked on a five-week spree committing vandalism, burglary, and arson.
They were later caught trying to burn down Pembrokeshire Technical College.
Following a trial at Swansea Crown Court, June and Jennifer pleaded guilty to 16 counts of burglary, theft, and arson and were sentenced to indefinite detention at Broadmoor under the Mental Health Act.
What happened at Broadmoor Hospital?
Broadmoor has housed some of the country’s most notorious criminals such as the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
During her time at Broadmoor, Jennifer wrote in a diary entry: ‘I really aim to be alone. Yet, I am deceiving myself. Can I stand being alone? My heart does not beat so fast now. It only beats fast when J is around.’
While the twins did continue to write during their 12-year Broadmoor stint, they were mostly heavily medicated during that time and their volume of diaries and novels noticeably decreased.
Letitia is best known for her role in Marvel’s Black Panther (Picture: Getty Images)
How did Jennifer Gibbons die?
In 1993, the girls were transferred to the medium-security unit Caswell Clinic at Bridgend’s Glanrhyd Hospital.
However, Jennifer became incredibly weak on arrival at the clinic and was taken to the Princess of Wales Hospital.
She died there at 6:30pm on March 9 aged 29.
A post-mortem report revealed the cause of death to be undiagnosed myocarditis.
However, in an interview after Jennifer’s death, June revealed they had a death ‘pact’.
‘We said we weren’t going to speak to anybody… I’m going to have to die,’ she said according to Wallace.
The journalist explained: ‘At that point, I got very, very frightened because I could see that they meant it. And then they said, we have made a pact.
Wallace claims the sisters had a death ‘pact’ (Picture: PA)
‘Jennifer has got to die because they said the day that they left Broadmoor, the day that they were free from the secure hospital, one of them would have to give up their life to really enable the other one to be free.’
Where is June Gibbons now?
June remained at Caswell for another year after Jennifer’s death but later returned to West Wales to build a new life for herself without her sister.
She still lives in the area near her parents but has tried to keep out of the spotlight aside from some previous interviews.
Jennifer is buried under a gravestone that is engraved with 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.’
Their case became so prolific that the Manic Street Preachers’ 1995 song Tsunami was inspired by the sisters.
Lyrics include: ‘For you my sister, holding onto me forever / Disco dancing with the rapists, your only crime is silence,’ in reference to their Broadmoor sentence.
MORE : Black Panther’s Letitia Wright to star in thriller about real-life Silent Twins June and Jennifer Gibbons
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