The names Jahmal and Jahmil Cooper meant different things to different people. The police thought they were constant pests; Kenneth Burgess’s barrister, Courtenay Griffiths drawing from the twins’ criminal records, called them “gangsters who terrorized the city.”

But as the following profile shows, whatever they did, they were also someone’s sons, brothers, uncles and friends; human beings who were bludgeoned to death exactly five months before their 21st birthday. Here we take a closer, broader look at the lives of Jahmal and Jahmil Cooper —?two young men who died before their time.

Jahmal and Jahmil Cooper were born on August 13, 1984, in that order, to Bermudian mom, Rochelle, and American dad David, who was stationed on the military base at St. David’s. The twins had an older brother, Rashan, and a half sister, Tameya, from their mother’s first marriage.

After living on the bases for a while, the family moved to New York, but things didn’t work out and they were back here less than a year later.

A close family friend told us: “Rochelle came back without David and moved into her mother’s house on North Shore at the back of the golf club in St. George’s with the twins. Her sister lived there, too, with her children.”

She continued: “She was back here, a single mom, and had to find work. She worked in the jewellery stores in town down Front Street.”

The twins never had a relationship with their father. They never saw him again after New York. Family who tried to trace him after the boys went missing were told he’d died five years ago.

According to the twins’ obituary, written by relatives, it didn’t take the boys long to realize how much fun and trouble they could get into by switching identities.

The relatives wrote: “As children they attended St. George’s Preschool where they were labelled quite the little rascals. Namely for the fact that because they were identical they would sometimes switch the name tags that helped their teachers identify them.” After St. George’s Preschool they joined their brother, sister and cousin at East End Primary School.

The family friend said: “They were darling little boys. They just liked to clown about who was who. They were little pranksters, normal little boys.”

The twins stayed in St. George’s for most of their early life before moving to Somerset and then into town, where they stayed, in various places, for the rest of their lives.

The boys were inseparable. The family talks about when Jahmal developed a kidney disease and had to go to hospital. They write: “Jahmil was very distraught when Jahmal was sick so much. Even though he did not have the disease, he had the same symptoms as his brother. That’s how close they were.”

The boys went on to attend Whitney Middle School, but became increasingly disruptive. When it came time to leave, teachers and the Education Department decided to split them up, sending Jahmal, to Berkeley and Jahmil to CedarBridge. The boys weren’t happy about being apart and used to skip school regularly.

When their mom found out, she went mad. The relatives write: “One day Jahmil was trying to skip school and his mom came along and caught him.

“She then escorted him to school where she sat in every class and even sat with him at lunch. She also walked him to the bathroom and waited outside the door.”

Jahmil was highly embarrassed. “He told everyone that she was some crazy lady and he didn’t know her. When he got home he had to endure more teasing from Jahmal,” the relatives said.

It is at this point in the twins’ lives, early adolescence, that they started to get in trouble with the law. As mentioned during the trial, Jahmil was just 12 when police busted him for selling drugs.

We contacted numerous sources for this profile in an attempt to understand what happened to the boys for them to end up in so much trouble, but very few people were prepared to speak to us. The boys were known to Family Services, but staff wouldn’t speak to us on the grounds of confidentiality. Others simply said they were just “bad news.”

Family and friends insist people who say that about them, didn’t know them. To them, the twins were fun people to be around. They always had smiles on their faces and looked out for the neighbourhood kids.

One friend said: “I went to school with them at CedarBridge. I’d heard of them before I met them; one of my ace girls used to like them, she thought they were real cute.

“We used to hang out together at the Swinging Doors. They were always cool with me. Some of the younger ones used to look up to them, but some of the people their own age thought they were gangsta-type guys, but they weren’t like that around me.”

She continued: “I hung out with them for three or four years. They didn’t like school, only that their friends were there. They used to skip it about once or twice a week. They never liked the police either, I don’t know why.

“I didn’t see them so much after I moved out of town, but whenever I did, it was always a good experience. I was really upset when I found out what had happened to them. They didn’t deserve it. Everyone was shocked, they wanted to know why it happened. No one knew exactly what was going on with them. I’ll just always remember them as cool guys to be around.”

But their police records tell a different story.

Jahmal was arrested multiple times from 1999 to 2004. Offences included: violently resisting arrest, aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, carrying a weapon and possessing cocaine.

He was arrested once in 1999, twice in 2001, six times in 2002, nine times in 2003 and five times in 2004.

A police source told us: “Most of the crimes were against someone else, possession of a weapon, an indecent act —?they’re all actions against someone. They’re all very aggressive crimes.”

Judging by his lighter criminal record, Jahmil was either the quieter or the smarter of the twins, but the types of crimes were the same —?wilful damage, drugs, assault and robbery.

“They were like permanent pests,” the police source said. “They started off petty. Eventually they became linked to more crimes. They weren’t considered major players, but they were major players at the petty level.”

But they were always okay with their own people.

One of Jahmal’s ex-girlfriends told us: “They weren’t trouble makers but if people came to them, then yes, they’d fight back. They didn’t go looking for trouble, trouble found them.”

One of her friends added: “I knew them when they were home dogs; we were in the same home together, but I don’t know what they were in there for. Later on, they used to baby-sit my daughter, they were great with kids.”

The ex-girlfriend who stayed friends with the brothers until they were murdered, said they used to sit off at home, smoking ‘chronic’, a potent type of marijuana, going to the Swinging Doors and hanging out at Kenneth Burgess’s gambling den. Their favourite tipple was Chivas Scotch whisky and water.

Friends can’t understand what happened at the gambling den the night they were killed. The twins were well known there. Mr. Burgess used to give them money to start the night off with. One time he said he’d give $1,000 to whoever could get him on the floor. The twins tried, along with others, but Burgess wouldn’t go down. Their favourite game was Dice.

The ex-girlfriend said: “They were there everyday, hanging out. I still can’t believe Kenneth did this. I never sensed he would do something like that to them. He’d help anybody. Everybody respected him. He was a cool guy.”

When we asked about the twins on the street, it was hard to find anything positive. Many people seemed to think they got what was coming to them.

One man, who was hanging out by ‘white wall’, near the Cake Shop on Curving Avenue said: “I’ve sat here and watched those guys yanking chains off people, robbing people. The only thing they were about was violence.”

Family and friends don’t get it, either because they never saw that side of them, or they were in denial, or because the twins were not much different from the other kids, the same age, with similar backgrounds growing up in the area.

One woman who lived in the apartment below them at Fenton’s Drive said: “I treated them like my sons. They always asked me if I was okay and they were always very polite. They always gave me a smile. I never could tell the difference between them.”

Another relative told us Jahmal was taller than Jahmil and Jahmil had a “skinnier face.” What is clear is that they both thought very highly of themselves.

In the obituary the family wrote: “If anyone ever passed Elliott Street you would see them out there, chillin’ out or fighting about who was finer because let them tell it, they were the most handsome boys, (no, men as they would say) on the planet.”

It was not uncommon to find the twins talking to themselves in the mirror saying things like: “I’m really fine” or “I look really good.”

The obituary continues: “Sometimes they’d come out of the bathroom at Aunt Doreen’s house and ask everyone how it felt to have relatives that are so fine. Everyone would sigh and laugh, and they would be on their way.”

The twins favourite colour was red, the choice colour of the Bloods, a Los Angeles Street gang. Knowgangs.com says: “West Coast gang members often use a red bandana and while on the East Coast they use red-coloured beads.” But the reality in this case was far less menacing.

A family friend said: “They used to call themselves the Bloods, but it was just them, the two brothers.”

Rumours came thick and fast when the twins went missing. Some friends, who were used to seeing them every day, thought they might have been kidnapped. No one was prepared for the gruesome discovery of their rotting bodies a month later at the foot of Abbott’s Cliff.

One friend said: “I still can’t believe it. They said they robbed somebody, but they never had no money. If they took this money, they would have been out there spending it —?they never had no money.”

People in the Fenton’s Drive neighbourhood felt like they’d lost two of their own.

“We were devastated, especially the children,” one neighbour said. “They were always helping with the kids and stuff. They always kept their eyes out for them.”

Another neighbour, Jim Kenny, who lived in Raynor’s Drive, told a similar story: “I have small kids. The twins would grab them if they went near the road or come and grab me.

“They seemed like, normal, well-adjusted lads. I enjoyed having a few beers and stuff with them. I never saw the other side of them people talk about. I enjoyed whatever time I spent in their company. It’s very upsetting what happened to them.”

For many, the trial of Kenneth Burgess and Dennis Robinson has been too painful to follow. “I just don’t want to know,” another neighbour said. “I can’t stomach it.”

A cousin told us the twins had been talking about turning their lives around shortly before they were killed.

She said: “It was around Christmas time, they were both saying they were tired of the street life and were thinking about going back to school. They wanted to make something of their lives.”

The ex-girlfriend and her family keep a picture of the twins on their fridge door. The picture was taken on the ex-girlfriend’s birthday in July 2004, eight months before the murder and a month before their 20th birthday.

The picture shows Jahmal dressed in a red Philadelphia 76’s basketball shirt and a red scarf worn bandit-style, covering his lower face. To his right is Jahmil, dressed in blue clutching a bottle of beer. Underneath it is a simple tribute. It reads: “You will be missed.”