Double trouble: 3 twisted tales of criminal twins

The unique bond between twins is as undeniable as it is famous.

Siblings that share a DNA profile, near identical genes and sometimes even the same face, twins often enjoy a connection that seems to transcend all other human relationships. To the point where talk of telepathy between them can be enjoyed by even the most scientific of folk.

To the vast majority of these uber-close relatives, being a twin mostly means a close kinship, the occasional amusing mix-up and the odd embarrassing old photograph of them and their brother or sister dressed in a pair of terrible matching tracksuits. 
 

In some extreme cases, however, this deep and inescapable connection can lead to some very dark places indeed. Cases of twins who commit crimes together are, of course, quite rare. Identical suspects with the same DNA and a seemingly psychic connection...? It’s the plot of a schlocky late night movie. But it’s not unheard of. Just ask the Menéndez brothers or the Spahalski twins.

The phenomenon isn’t just restricted to the United States, though. Let’s take a look at three highly unusual cases of what can happen when twins turn bad right here in Britain...

June and Jennifer Gibbons: 'The Silent Twins'

We start with an unlikely duo indeed. The Gibbons sisters were born and raised in south west Wales to Caribbean immigrant parents. As the only black family in the local community in the 1960’s, the girls grew up as outsiders and social pariahs, relying solely on one another for company and comfort. 

Soon, the girls would only speak to each other, in rushed Bajun Creole that no one else could understand. The two then developed their own language (known as an 'idioglossia'). They would often move at the same time and in the exact same way too, something very occasionally seen in twins that doctors call 'cryptophasia'. As time went on, they further isolated themselves from everything and everyone else. 

Withdrawing from the world and still feeling the effects of years of bullying and ostracism, the girls ended up embarking on a rather out-of-character crime spree. They spent five weeks committing various acts of vandalism, petty theft and arson in the local area until eventually being arrested by police. 

The twins' refusal to communicate confused and angered authorities and they were sent, bizarrely, to Britain’s most high-security psychiatric hospital, Broadmoor. Home to such high-profile inmates as The Yorkshire Ripper himself, Peter Sutcliffe.

'The Silent Twins', as they became known, had a long-standing pact with each other that when one of the sisters dies, the other was to try to live ‘a normal life'. While in Broadmoor, they decided that it had in fact become necessary for one of them to die, effectively enabling the other to be set free.

The twins wouldn't need to wait long.

In March 1993, Jennifer Gibbons died suddenly and unexpectedly of acute myocarditis, a sudden inflammation of the heart. Not long after, June was released from hospital and settled down back home with her family, talking and getting better. It was to be a bittersweet end to the twins’ truly odd tale.
 

Ronnie and Reggie Kray: the Kray twins

Ensuring that your family name is the most respected and feared in London’s criminal underworld is a lot easier when there are two of you out there cracking skulls.

Individually, Ronnie or Reggie Kray were a force to be reckoned with. After all, both were tough guy former boxers from East London with ambition, drive, smarts and an affinity for violence. But together, they absolutely dominated organised crime in the capital in the 1950s and ‘60s.

The brothers were, effectively, two sides of the same coin. Both were clever, charming and capable of explosive and deadly violence. Yet while all that separated their looks were just Ronnie’s glasses, the two men could be as different as they were alike.

Reggie Kray, older than his brother by a full ten minutes, was - by contrast - the practical and level-headed one. Still a formidable character, Reggie could see reason and would generally act based on logic. Ronnie, though… Well, he was more unpredictable.

The pitbull of ‘The Firm’, Ronald Kray needed very little encouragement to act with devastating brutality. In part due to his ever-worsening schizophrenia.

Both were happiest when fighting alongside one another, though. That was where their connection was at its strongest and most obvious.

'In gang fights they seemed to be telepathic, as if they were one,' John Pearson wrote in his book on The Kray Twins called 'The Cult of Violence: The Untold Story of the Krays'. 

Reggie was eventually arrested for murdering Jack 'The Hat' McVitie, while Ronnie was charged in connection to the murder of one George Cornell. They would end their days separately, living out their final years in separate prisons. Both pined for the other as they did so.

Sabina and Ursula Eriksson: 'The Motorway Cops Twins'

Born and raised in a loving family in Värmland, Sweden, Sabina and Ursula Eriksson were happy girls growing up. They grew into happy women too, with no history of mental health issues before ‘The incident’. Or should that be ‘The incidents’...

Some of it filmed - by chance - by a BBC documentary crew - this story is so strange, it’s perhaps best explained with a rundown of the events which began on the 16th May, 2008:

●    The sisters, holidaying in England, were spotted by police on CCTV walking down the central reservation of the M6 motorway.
●    Sabina is a hit by a car but is mostly unhurt.
●    Police arrive on the scene, along with the BBC's 'Motorway Cops' film crew.
●    As police talk to them, both women are heard shouting 'They're going to steal your organs!' before dashing out into oncoming traffic again. Both are hit and hurt, Ursula quite badly. She's hospitalised.
●    Sabina assaults the officers and attempts to run back into the road. She is restrained (it takes SIX police officers to hold her down) and also hospitalised.
●    Police realise that the women are twin sisters, from Sweden and share just one passport.
●    The next day, Sabina is charged and released. Tests reveal neither woman had been drinking or taken drugs.
●    Sabina meets a former RAF man named Glenn Hollinshead, who tries to help her at his home.
●    The next day, Sabina stabs Hollinshead to death with a kitchen knife.
●    As she flees the scene, she takes a hammer with her and is seen by paramedics repeatedly hitting herself in the head with it.
●    She heads to a bridge and jumps down to the road below, shattering her ankles and fracturing her skull.

Some put the bizarre and ultimately tragic episode down to a rare psychological condition known as 'folie à deux'. A French term meaning 'madness of two', it refers to a psychosis which is shared by two people. In fact, folie à deux was actually used as a defence by Sabina Eriksson's defence counsel.

Whether or not the Eriksson twins were suffering from this linked mental health disorder is difficult to prove with any real certainty, though the court did accept that Sabina was technically ‘insane’ at the time of the murder and was sentenced to just five years in prison.

Cryptophasia, schizophrenia, folie à deux... Whatever was or wasn't at play in these strange stories of criminal twins, it might just be the deep emotional connection between the twins involved that’s the real story here.