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Strictly Shirley Ballas shares heartbreak over brother's tragic death

The head judge also opened up about Aston Merrygold's controversial exit…

by Gemma Strong

Christmas is a bitter-sweet time for Strictly Come Dancing star Shirley Ballas. Her brother David tragically took his own life in December 14 years ago, and this will be the first year that her family will celebrate the festive season. "I'm going home on Saturday evening," the head judge revealed during Thursday's episode of Loose Women. "My mum's put a tree up for the first time – 2003 my brother took his own life. He died on the 5th of December, so we haven't celebrated Christmas at all."

She explained: "It was a short spell [of depression]. He had this six weeks of being really down, not really feeling up to himself. My mother was with him. It was one day when my son was singing in St Paul's Church. I spoke to David on the phone. My mother, I love her to death, but it's not an overly-communicative family. I don't think I ever really understood to the great extent how sick he was. I don't think my mum did either. She came to watch Mark at the church singing, it was that particular day he chose to take his life."

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Shirley Ballas is head judge on the Strictly Come Dancing panel

During her appearance on the ITV show, Shirley also spoke about her Strictly debut, and described sitting on the judging panel as "an amazing experience". "I've never done TV before," she said. "I love my job, I love the critiquing of the dancers. I love the journey of every celebrity that's on there." Asked about Aston Merrygold's controversial exit from the competition on Sunday, she replied: "There's no fix. None at all. It's a TV show at the end of the day, everybody tunes in, everybody has a chance to vote. It's in everybody's living room, they're all enjoying it. There's nothing at all like that – so it's just a load of rubbish.

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"You can only judge exactly what you see on the evening. Not before performances and not coming up. Nothing like that. It [Mollie King's dance] was better. She had more glide it was better technically. It was just unfortunate. Again, I ask Great Britain, where were those votes? Why were they in the bottom two? Why were they there in the first place?"

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