Search

Highgate journalist’s harrowing story of twins locked in silence

16:51 25 November 2011

Highgate journalist Marjorie Wallace (centre) with twins June and Jennifer in Broadmoor

Highgate journalist Marjorie Wallace (centre) with twins June and Jennifer in Broadmoor

Archant

It has been 30 years since a Highgate journalist first told the world the harrowing story of twins locked in silence with each other.

A terrifying battle of wills saw Jennifer and June Gibbons speak only to each other from the age of four – blocking out their parents, siblings and teachers – before being convicted of arson and ending up in Broadmoor as teenagers.

It was there that investigative journalist Marjorie Wallace first met the twins and found a pathway into their silent world.

The Highgate village resident, now chief executive of mental health charity Sane, said: “They were on remand and they were brought in and really looked like two coffins on the shoulders of the wardens.

“When they sat down, they didn’t lift their eyes or speak or acknowledge their father or me.

“I said, ‘You know June and Jennifer, I’ve read some of the things you’ve written, I’ve seen your diaries, I know’, and, after a while, June gave a flicker of a smile and she said, ‘Did you like them’. And from then on, they gave me the diaries.”

She went on to publish a book, The Silent Twins in 1986, telling June and Jennifer’s story.

It is once again in the spotlight as a play called Speechless, based on the book, is being performed at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney.

Tragically, Ms Wallace’s connection with the twins lasted only for the decade they were incarcerated, as Jennifer died in mysterious circumstances on the day both women were released from Broadmoor.

Eerily, they had confided in Ms Wallace just days before about a pact they had made that Jennifer should die to set June free.

An inquest was held but the reason for Jennifer’s death has never been established.

The twins were brought up near to an air force base in Wales, where their Caribbean father was posted, and both were prolific writers despite their withdrawal from spoken language.

They suffered bullying at school and a sense of isolation as the only black family in the community – thought to have contributed to their silence.

Ms Wallace went on to spend countless hours deciphering the diaries to ensure their voices were at the heart of her book.

“I feel it is one of the many, many dozens of sad and harrowing stories in which I have become involved,” said the journalist, who worked for the Sunday Times in the 1970s and 1980s and also exposed the story of thalidomide babies.

Ms Wallace was on a panel to talk about the play at the Arcola on Thursday, November 17.

It was hosted by Dame Joan Bakewell, chairwoman of Shared Experience, the company which produced the play.

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Yesterday, 08:41
Owner Saby Thukral at the opening party of her store in Heath Street

Struggling with the challenge of shopping for her fashion-conscious daughters in the area, a Hampstead Garden Suburb mother has opened up a new children’s shop in Hampstead.

Saturday, April 30, 2016
Claire Meir part of a charity raising money for books for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Photo: Nigel Sutton

A mother was inspired to fundraise to buy books for Syrian children in Turkey after imagining what it would be like if her son was fleeing devastating civil war.

Saturday, April 30, 2016
The primary school pupils enjoyed a range of workshops. Photo: Jacqui Sinnatt

Camden and Islington primary school children enjoyed a taste of creativity away from the classroom at the Primary Careers Fair held at the British Library.

Friday, April 29, 2016
Ray Davies is returning to Hornsey Town Hall

Ray Davies performed one of his first gigs at the iconic venue when he was still at school, before going on to form The Kinks

Friday, April 29, 2016
The coffin arrives for the funeral of David Gest arriving at Golders Green Crematorium in north London.

Mourners have remembered music producer and TV star David Gest at a funeral service in Golders Green.

Friday, April 29, 2016
PC Shane Moulds has been dismissed for misconduct

A Camden police constable has been sacked for punching a member of the public he was arresting and hurling abuse at him, calling him a ‘posh twat’

Friday, April 29, 2016
Big Green Bookshop is raising money for Haringey schools.  Joint owner Tim West  pictured. Photo: Nigel Sutton

Two book owners was sickened when an opportunistic thief stole £600, but their customers were “unbelievably” supportive and in a “tsunami of loveliness” helped them raise more than nine times the amount in donations.

Friday, April 29, 2016
Found dead: David Gest (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)

The funeral of David Gest is set to take place this afternoon at Golders Green crematorium, according to reports.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Yummy traditional afternoon teas for two

MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Traditional Afternoon Teas for two at a location of your choice! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe