Strictly’s Shirley Ballas says dead brother spoke to her when she needed it most

Strictly Come Dancing star Shirley Ballas has revealed she heard her late brother speak to her on an African mountain.

The dancing queen, 60, was part of a celebrity team who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for the Comic Relief charity last year.

Shirley heard the “comforting” voice of David, who took his own life 17 years ago, call out to her as she neared the summit.

She said: “As anybody who’s ever gone up a mountain will know, there is plenty of time when it’s just you and your thoughts.

“You walk for miles and miles and miles, often in perfect silence, too tired to chat, and that’s when your thoughts and memories come flooding in – in my case, the cause of my life’s greatest sadness.

“Because I wasn’t sleeping well I was in a state of constant tiredness and, as we all know, when you’re feeling like that your mind can start playing tricks on you.”

Shirley added: “A few days in I suddenly started feeling very panicky, then I was having a nosebleed and starting to vomit. But what came into my mind was worse than anything physical.

“I couldn’t control my emotions, and I can only assume it was the altitude. It plays tricks on your mind and makes for a very lonely, sad experience.

“But something else happened too, which I found immensely comforting. On one of our final days reaching the summit, I distinctly heard my brother talking to me.

“All he said was ‘Shirley’, but it sounded exactly like him, and it was a reminder of why I was doing all this, just when I needed it most.”

Among those who joined the charity challenge were Love Island winner Dani Dyer, telly host Dan Walker and Little Mix singers Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

But it was NFL star Osi Umen-yiora whose quick reflexes saved Shirley’s life on the dangerous climb. She said: “I slipped over on the narrow ledges several times.

“On one occasion I would have gone tumbling over the edge if Osi hadn’t caught me by the scruff of my coat collar and pulled me back up.

“Thank goodness for all those years of NFL training and his quick-as-a-flash reactions.”

Shirley said the expedition was physically the hardest thing she had done in her life but she was determined to succeed for her beloved sibling.

She added: “The satisfaction of reaching the summit was beyond immense. As I stood on the top of the mountain, I sent all the love in my heart out to my brother and I like to think that on that day, like every other day, I made him proud.”

Shirley’s brother was 44 when he took his own life in 2003 at their mother’s home in Liverpool.

In her new book Behind The Sequins, Shirley reveals she still blames herself for his death.

On the night David died, she had persuaded her mum to go to London to see her grandson Mark, Shirley’s son, perform at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, thinking her mum could do with a night off after looking after her brother for eight weeks.

Shirley said: “David has left a huge gap in our family, and the traumatic manner of his passing still takes its toll on us even now, nearly two decades later.”

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