The accident itself was terrible enough. When the motorcycle he had lifted into a corner, Alex Lewis, then 18, suffered serious brain injury. For a while his survival was at stake.
While the driver escaped with a broken thumb, Alex suffered total memory loss.
He remembered nothing and nobody; his name, his previous life, the circumstances of the accident – nothing except his twin brother Marcus, to whom he said: & # 39; Hello Marky & # 39; upon awakening from a three-week coma.
Alex (left) and Marcus Lewis (right), who grew up at home in Sussex, were abused throughout their childhood by their mother Jill Dudley (photo)
There was much more that Alex & # 39; ghost had erased. He remembered nothing about his mother, Jill Dudley, who was hard to forget.
Long, striking and exuberant, she was a former debutante who was presented to the queen at the age of 18 and was by no means related to Clement Attlee, the former prime minister of labor.
Wildly eccentric, she was an obsessive hoarder who, among other things, collected Chihuahua dogs to the point that at some point more than 60 rattled around the parental home.
She had other obsessions: mainly sexual. Her affairs were numerous, as was customary in the shady, aristocratic circles in which she moved. Few seemed to raise eyebrows because of her predatory appetite.
But then the full extent of her sexual perversions was not generally known. Because the family was hiding a monstrous secret: Jill Dudley had sexually abused her twin sons for years.
Alex and Marcus Lewis (depicted as young boys) were also passed & # 39; & # 39; by their mother to a series of sexual disorders from the upper class up to the age of about 14
Not only did she commit unspeakable acts in their walking 16th-century Sussex house, she had also passed on her boys & # 39; to a group of sexual deviants from the higher class with whom she interacted.
All of this, however, Alex had surprisingly completely forgotten after his accident and head injury.
For Marcus, however, the abuse was still painfully present. But now he had a tempting chance: his twins the & # 39; gift & # 39; of a happy childhood without all the horror.
So, extraordinary, that's what he did. When Alex asked him about who he was – from the details, such as where they had been on vacation as children, to the broad umbrella, such as the complexities of the relationships that existed within their family unit – Marcus recreated the story of their lives completely, the reality of a life marked by gruesome abuse turns into a story of a happy clan with a loving, albeit eccentric, mother.
Alex (left) was involved in a motorcycle accident at the age of 18 and suffered a serious brain injury, which made him unable to remember the past. His twin brother Marcus (right) decided to keep the full details of their childhood secret
& # 39; In the beginning it was easy & # 39 ;, Marcus admits today.
& # 39; Alex trusted me completely. But then he started asking more complicated questions, and then I started omitting things because I didn't want to go to that place. I consciously made things up.
& # 39; Once you take that path, there really is no place to go. I finally realized that I was ready to never go back. & # 39;
Rewriting the story of their childhood was also therapeutic for the deeply traumatized Marcus.
It became good for me. I lived his life for him. It became beneficial for both of us. It was also a coping mechanism that was beneficial to me. & # 39;
Marcus was so dedicated to his task that he sustained this happy family myth 13 years after the Alex accident in 1982 – but the fantasy he carefully constructed was to collapse completely after their mother's death in 1995.
Alex (left) and Marcus (right) have since published a book about their story that has been turned into a Netflix documentary
While cleaning up their home from her possessions, Alex discovered an indecent photo of them as children, with shattering consequences for both of them.
Alex & # 39; quest for truth, and Marcus & # 39; painful reluctance to share it with him is now the subject of a moving Netflix documentary, Tell Me Who I Am, which was also released in the cinema last month.
& # 39; Imagine a black, empty space. You have lost everything in your life and you start with a blank canvas. Imagine how scary that would be & # 39 ;, says Marcus in the film.
But while Alex & # 39; s quest for knowledge was driven by despair to fill his mental void, both brothers admit that they had a deep need to restore their twin bond.
& # 39; We have one thing & # 39 ;, Alex says, now 55. & # 39; This is how we explain it. Most siblings work at 100 percent. Twins, identical twins, work at 110 percent. Part of it was missing and I wanted it back. I felt incomplete. & # 39;
Secrets would then come between that band.
And there was much that Marcus hid from Alex … The twins were apparently born blessed, their arrival announced in the Times newspaper, published February 3, 1964, which told of the birth of twin sons to Jill and husband on January 31 John Langford-Lewis.
Three weeks later, however, a second message was published in The Times. This announced the death of John Langford-Lewis, & dear father of three-week-old twins, Alexander and Marcus & # 39 ;.
John died in a car accident. What the announcement didn't say was that baby Alexander was also in the car when it was hit by another vehicle in Wandsworth, South London, on the way home from the hospital after his birth (Marcus happened to be kept inside with a breast infection).
When they were hit side by side, Alex, who was lying on his mother's lap in the front seat, shot through the windshield with his father. His mother, unlike his father, wore a seat belt and escaped unscathed.
Alex and his father both got a living. Alex made it – but his father died.
If the friendly John Langford-Lewis had worn a seat belt, the story of the twins might have turned out differently. But he wasn't. Instead, the boys remained under the care of their mother, a twist of fate with terrible consequences.
Seven years after John's death, their mother married Jack Dudley, a cold, forbidding man. The twins had little to do with him, except that he went into his study every night, shook his hand, and said: & goodnight, sir. & # 39;
However, when Alex recovered many years later after his motorcycle accident, Marcus painted a more rosy picture of family life. For example, their mother and stepfather never took the twins on vacation.
But Marcus found a photo of them on a beach, on vacation with friends, and told Alex that it was a family vacation.
It is not difficult to understand why Marcus wanted to forget their youth and save his brother. & # 39; The abuse started when I was about eight, possibly earlier. I don't have many memories before I was eight, because I was so traumatized & Marcus says.
& # 39; For many years it happened sporadically. & # 39;
His mother hid behind her background, giving her carte blanche to do what she wanted. & # 39; Sexual abuse knows no boundaries & # 39 ;, he says.
The last time it happened, Marcus adds, was when he was around 14. His mother drove him to the home of a famous London artist that Marcus had never met. They all ate and drank some wine. Then his mother left him, as always, and went home.
The evening went as usual when Marcus and Alex were left by their mother with strange men: the man brought him to bed.
But on this occasion Marcus told the man that he did not want this and left. He took the train back to Sussex and let Alex open the window when he got home.
& # 39; Mom was very surprised to see me at breakfast the next morning & # 39 ;, says Marcus. & # 39; But she didn't say a word. That was the last time it happened. & # 39;
What happened was simply not discussed, either between the twins or with other family members.
& # 39; If our stepfather had not been a tyrant, we would have gone to him and he would probably have done something about it, & Marcus says.
& # 39; He was not a very nice man, but I have no indications that he was involved. & # 39;
After that last night in London, Marcus says, he and his brother moved to an unheated shed outside the house, where they stayed.
& # 39; It became a safe space for us. They called it a studio, but it was a shed. Better out of the house than in. & # 39;
On the night of Alex's accident in 1982, Marcus woke up shockingly. That was their intuitive bond, he told his mother that he knew his twins were in the hospital. Yet it was a few hours later that she accepted the call from doctors.
Regarding the extent of his catastrophic injuries, Alex says: & # 39; Of the brain surgeons I have spoken to, they think the first car accident has aggravated the second accident. & # 39;
Alex could remember how to speak, but nothing else.
& # 39; You have learned how to walk, go to the bathroom. You don't know how to make up your shoelaces, you've never watched a TV. You only have speech. I don't think even Marcus realized how tough an empty world was, & he says today.
Once at home, Marcus played a complex charade that their family life – sleeping in the unheated annex; their cruel stepfather who gave them & # 39; the weak twins & # 39; called; their capricious mother – was completely normal.
Marcus never confronted his mother with the abuse and she never acknowledged it – although they are aware that Alex didn't remember it.
Alex was not aware of the true nature of his mother and even started to love her. Because despite her actions, she could also be warm and mothers.
No wonder Alex was desperate to find his mother at the bottom of the stairs, unconscious, in March 1995, about 13 years after his car accident.
She was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would prove to be fatal, and died at the age of 64 (her second husband had died five years earlier).
Alex was surprised by his brother's reaction: & # 39; He didn't even cry. & # 39; In the meantime, Marcus admits that he felt nothing after the death of his mother. On the contrary, he was determined to keep the past buried.
After the funeral, the twins began to tidy up the parental home. In the attic there were boxes of old Christmas cards for the twins, sent by friends and family, some with money in them, which their mother had not given them.
And they found a large supply of love letters from men with whom their mother had clearly had affairs.
Although Alex now says he began to get a disturbing feeling that his mother was not the woman he thought she was, it was only when they cleared her bedside table that the gruesome truth became clear.
In it they found a picture of themselves about ten years old, naked, with their heads cut off.
& # 39; For me, everything just fell apart at that moment & # 39 ;, Alex says.
& # 39; My thoughts went completely over. I asked Marcus what it was all about, this photo, but he didn't give me anything.
& # 39; A few weeks later I hit him with the question. & # 39; Has Mommy Abused Us? & # 39;
& # 39; He said yes. "I just fell into the melt. & # 39;
Alex begged Marcus to tell him the truth, but Marcus wanted to protect Alex – and, he now admits, himself.
In the end, however, he basically told Alex what happened, both with her and with her & # 39; male employees & # 39 ;.
But the memories and his desire to protect his twin were so traumatic that Marcus was still unable to share the full truth. The twins were just continuing somehow. They traveled and, thanks to a considerable legacy, invested in real estate and opened a hotel in Zanzibar.
Alex settled in North London; Marcus bought a home in Hampshire. Both married and both had two children. Alex says his wife helped him through the aftermath of his horrible discovery.
The relationship between the brothers was good, but, says Marcus, & # 39; operating at 100 percent, not at the twin level & # 39 ;.
While writing a bestseller book about their experiences, Tell Me Who I Am, which was published in 2013, it was only during filming for the documentary (it took five years before they agreed to tell their story on camera) that Marcus finally about the abuse.
Alex says that hearing his brother revealing the whole truth has miraculously shrunk the monster he had created in his head. His trauma has begun to end, although he wished his brother had told him that earlier.
Marcus also admits that he should have revealed everything earlier – but was only motivated by a desire to protect his beloved twins.
As if all this was not enough to cope, there was a further shock to the twins when, after researching their book, they discovered that their mother had offered them for adoption when they were one year old.
& # 39; We didn't know that & # 39 ;, says Marcus. & # 39; Our ghost writer, Joanna Hodgkin, who made the book with us, has found letters from her friends who urged her to come and fetch us from a foster family. She was embarrassed to get her children back. & # 39;
When asked whether they loved their mother, the twins gave remarkably similar answers in the past. & # 39; That's a difficult question, & # 39; said Marcus in an interview. & # 39; I could say no too easily. The answer is, probably it is. & # 39;
As for Alex, he says: & # 39; That's a difficult one. I was very angry with her over the years. If I could understand why she did it, I probably could. In that period I was a child, I knew nothing else and she was my mother. & # 39;
After they finished the documentary, finally the whole truth, the brothers went to the pub. & # 39; We were in the pub and bought a beer & # 39 ;, Alex says. & # 39; Marcus said, "Are we all right?" And I said, "Yes, we're good." & # 39;
Tell Me Who I Am is now at the cinema and on Netflix.
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