A QUIET recluse with a passion for animals - these are the words used in tribute to Freda Chaplin, one of the most famous twins in the world, who has died in York aged 77.

Freda, of Tang Hall, York, rose to notoriety in the early 1980s when she and her identical twin sister, Greta - who died in 2007 - were prosecuted at York Magistrates' Court for breach of the peace for harassing a local truck driver, Ken Iveson.

It was the first time their strange lives came to the attention of the wider public - and their story was reported in newspapers across the world: journalists from Brazil, Sweden and Minnesota covered the case.

The twins were bizarre mirror images of each other. They dressed identically, spoke in unison and even walked in step.

York Press:

Ken Iveson, centre, the lorry driver who took the twins to court in York for breach of the peace in 1981

They were inseparable and at the trial would shout out together to plead their innocence. Press reports at the time record them saying: "No, no, no, no, no. It's not true. It's not true. We haven't been near him, we haven't been near there, it is a bitter, bitter lie" and the magistrates ordering them to be quiet.

They were jailed for one month.

Media interest continued and two documentaries were made of their lives - A Pair of One by Julia Darling, filmed in 1987, and The Twins in 1994 by Journeyman Pictures.

Both can be viewed on YouTube today - and offer a fascinating insight into their day-to-day existence and reveal more about their troubled childhood and relationship with their parents, James and Elsie Chaplin.

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A difficult childhood

York Press:

Freda and Greta Chaplin - a still from The Twins documentary

By all accounts, the twins appeared fairly ordinary until about the age of 11 when they became ultra-dependent on one another. They would scream when teachers made them sit apart in school, and would resist efforts to distinguish or divide them.

They left school at 15 and became recluses, often staying in their bedrooms.

A neighbour, who asked not to be named, told The Press that in many ways they mirrored the behaviour of their parents who were also recluses.

He said the twins never really had the chance to grow up and lead independent lives and missed out on getting married and having children.

Leaving home

Their increasingly strange behaviour strained relationships at home and their parents could no longer cope.

The twins began to synchronise their speech and their parents found it increasingly difficult to live with them.

They moved out into the care of an institution and lived in a series of hostels, homes and shelters.

A psychiatrist speaks...

Aged 38 and residing at Howe Hill Hostel in York, the twins were prosecuted at the local magistrates' court for breach of the peace against Ken Iveson, a 56-year-old truck driver. It was said the twins had a crush on him and "accosted, harassed and abused" him until he was at the "end of his tether" with it.

They carried on in a similar way against another man - captured in the 1994 film, The Twins.

Their psychiatrist at the time, Trevor Turner, was interviewed for the film and revealed while although the twins had once been sectioned in York under the Mental Health Act, doctors concluded they did not suffer from any psychosis but could not give a clear-cut diagnosis to explain their odd behaviour.

He said: "Identical twins can share illnesses. They [the twins] don't share a psychosis but have an extraordinary closeness between them."

But he went on to reveal he thought they were suffering from a rare mental health condition: erotomania, an uncommon form of paranoid delusion where the affected person strongly believes that another individual is in love with him or her. The condition is more common in women than men. He likened it to a version of a teenage crush.

Living in London

York Press:

Freda and Greta Chaplin - photo taken from A Pair of One, documentary by Juliet Darling

By their 40s, the twins were living in London - a time documented in Julia Darling's fascinating A Pair of One documentary.

They were living with an elderly gentleman, Jack Davenport, who had read their story and offered them a room in his house to help them live independently.

In the film he describes how, although the sisters, looked identical, they had different personalities.

He said Greta was "softer and more sensitive", while Freda "tends to dominate her sister and does the thinking for them".

It was also revealed that the twins moved to London without telling their parents, but would return to York on the train every two weeks or so and stand outside the family home in Tang Hall. Sometimes they would see their mother through the curtains, but their parents never came out of the house to see or speak to them.

Return to York - a sighting

By the mid to late 90s, the twins returned to York - moving into the family home following the death of their parents.

In 1997, a Press columnist wrote this after spotting them at York Railway Station:

"They're back. Freda and Greta, the notorious Chaplin twins who dress identically and speak in unison, have returned to the city where their extraordinary antics gained them an international reputation in the 1980s. I spotted them on Monday afternoon, deep in conversation and accompanied by a ferocious-looking dog, crossing the bridge at York Station having alighted from the London train.

"So the twins, now 55, are back in town - and I have to say they were looking pretty well, given their surreal existence. Dressed identically (of course) in brown jackets and long flowing brown-and-white floral dresses, they were bronzed and fit. Their dog, meanwhile was an interesting, if rather aggressive, accessory. What happens next? Watch this space."

Life after Greta

York Press:

The Chaplin family house in Tang Hall, York

In September 2007, The Press reported that Greta had died of cancer, aged 64.

She had been living at the family home in Tang Hall - where they had been born in April 1943 - but died at Oak Rise, in Acomb.

Records from York Register Office show Greta died of ovarian cancer and carcinomatosis in June 2007.

Friends and neighbours feared how Freda would cope on her own for the first time without her sister. It has been revealed that Freda visited Greta's grave every day - weather and health permitting - and that the pair are now buried together at Fulford Cemetery in York.

One family friend said they didn't think Freda would survive for long after Greta's death. She said: "I thought within a week she would have died. They did absolutely everything together: putting their headscarves on looking at one another and not at a mirror. They even Hoovered together.

"But she did manage. She had a cat and a dog and worshipped them."

A neighbour said Freda did manage, but, tragically, often said how she just wished to join her sister. He said: "She was a one-off. After her sister died, she just wanted to go to. She said: 'I wish I was with her'."

He added that Freda lived for her animals. She had a dog called Jim and left a cat called Molly following her death.

York Press:

Solicitor Belinda Poulter of Crombie Wilkinson in York who attended Freda's funeral

Freda's solicitor Belinda Poulter of Crombie Wilkinson in York, knew her for many years and attended the small funeral service following her death in May.

She confirmed that Freda is leaving her estate to charity.

A neighbour told The Press she learned the house "was going to the cats' home" which looked after Molly after Freda's death.

Belinda said: "She was very fond of her animals - and missed her sister every single day. She was quiet but she had some strong views about animal welfare and felt very strongly about that."

Reunited at last

York Press:

Fulford Cemetery in York, where Freda is now buried with her sister, Greta

Freda died on May 5 - just days after being taken to hospital from the family home in Tang Hall, where she had lived for most of her life.

A friend said she had died of cancer - refusing treatment, just as Greta had done.

Her strong wish was for her to be be buried with her sister.

The Press has learned that, before she died, Freda ordered a gravestone for them to share, yet to be put in place.