The twin brothers who starred in the British reality-TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and died in a tragic suicide pact this weekend may have taken their lives after one of them was diagnosed with cancer, it emerged Monday.
Billy and Joe Smith, both 32, had both also been suffering from depression, reports say, and British advocates for Roma travelers say their deaths should serve as a wakeup call about the mental-health challenges the marginalized group faces.
Phoebe Charleen Smith, a cousin of the two men, told The Telegraph: “Joey had cancer, and Billy told him ‘I’d never be able to live without you.’
“Joey told the family he got the all-clear after chemo two months ago, but we don’t know if that’s true now.
“They went missing, and Joey’s phone was turned off. Then we found a note. It said that they wanted it like this, and we would find them in the woods where they played with the family years ago.”
Billy’s partner, Kristina Delaney, described him as “perfect, pure and lovely” in a tribute on social media. She wrote: “Joe, I tried telling you [during] our phone calls many times; I said to you just wait for time to heal you. I wish I could have done more for you both.
“May you both get the best beds in heaven. Bill please, please, please, be happy now. I’m just persuading myself you’re happier. I know you wouldn’t [want] me to cry but I am and I cry because I’m in pain. You hated when I cried, but also said how loved you felt.”
Just two weeks before their death, the brothers had been filmed singing and dancing to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at a family wedding.
The brothers sprang to fame in 2013 as accidental stars of the reality show that became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The show was screened by TLC in the United States and still has a cult following online. It followed the lives of a family of British Roma gypsies as they prepared for a lavish family wedding.
Billy Welch, a national spokesman for Britain’s Roma community, said the deaths of the Smith twins should lead to lessons being learned.
“This tragedy should be a wake-up call about high suicide rates among the traveling community,” he said. “Life can be very difficult for Romani people and travelers, and they often suffer in silence.”
An inquest into the deaths is due to be held in the new year, however police said the deaths “are not currently being treated as suspicious.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741