EXCLUSIVE: The untold story of Oscar Pistorius's mom

Sheila Pistorius was the woman who taught her son Oscar never to give up. She passed away in 2002 when her children were still very young.

eNCA has obtained exclusive home video footage of Oscar Pistorius's childhood. It tells the story of his mother Sheila Pistorius -- and the bond shared between mother and son.


JOHANNESBURG - When Oscar Pistorius was just a young boy he had no idea that time with his mother was running out.

Sheila Pistorius was the woman who taught  the superstar athlete never to give up, and never to see his amputations as a disability.

Gillian Silcock clearly remembers these moments with Sheila Pistorius, a woman she regarded as her best friend.

“She was just a normal mom who loved her kids, fought for them, fought medical aids, got Oscar prosthesis, grew with him.

"One day she was looking out of the kitchen window and Carl was playing around and Aimee was toddling around and Oscar was stomping around in the dog’s bowl.

"She shouted out of the window, 'Oscar get out of the dog’s bowl! You’re wetting your feet!' And then she realised that he didn’t feel that, and she just said, 'carry on in the dog’s bowl Oscar.'”

Silcock describes Sheila Pistorius as a committed Christian and caring mom, but also free spirited and fun. 

Yet underneath the smiles and laughter, Sheila Pistorius was privately coping with being a single mom after her marriage to Oscar’s father Henke failed.

Silcock says: "It was a difficult time, and I don’t know if she really ever got over the sadness of a broken marriage. It’s a sad thing to go through. But... when there was no money, the children didn’t ever really know because she made things fun.”

Sheila Pistorius wrote letters to her children throughout their lives. Oscar Pistorius would begin his 2009 autobiography "Blade Runner" with an excerpt from one of them, written to him just five months before surgeons performed bilateral amputations on his legs.

The excerpt said, "The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side, the person who does not even try to compete". 

Speaking to eNCA’s Pat Pillai in 2009, Pistorius said, "She was a very strong... pivoting point in our lives. She really made the point of saying, 'You know, if you want to do something go into it full heartedly... if you don't succeed, you can say that really wasn't for me, but you don't have to have a regret at the end of the day.' That was something that she really believed in.

"If you didn't get involved, then you missed out, and if you tried something and you didn't succeed in it, then you still achieved something in giving it a go."

Pistorius would write that he and his brother and sister were bought up with an iron rule: never to say “I can’t”.

In a radio interview in 2001, Sheila Pistorius said,  "I’m very proud of (Oscar) and my other two children as well. They are fantastic children and I really thank the Lord for everything he has done for them. And that he’s going to do in the future…”

The Oscar Pistorius the world got to know was a young man who seemed to have it all. Fast cars, beautiful woman, good looks and athletic skill.

But he is also a man whose life has been defined by loss. His parents marriage ended in divorce, and at the age 15, his mother was taken from him too.

She had remarried months earlier, and – at the age of 42 – unexpectedly fell ill. Oscar Pistorius has written that his mother was misdiagnosed with hepatitis and received the incorrect treatment.

When her condition hadn’t improved after a week, her friend Gillian Silcock took her to hospital. On 6 March 2002 her children were rushed to her hospital bedside.

Silcock says, “She’d had a brain haemorrhage at that point, but she didn’t go, she didn’t let go and go be with her dad in heaven until the boys got there... when her boys walked in they were able to see her and say goodbye and she waited, because after short period of time, 15 minutes or so, she went. After her sons arrived.”

Sheila Pistorius’s death was devastating to her children. But it’s impossible to know how she would have reacted to her son’s murder trial.

But Silcock says, “She would have continued to love, and I don’t think she would have stopped praying for God’s plan to continue in Oscar’s life. The world is negative and the world says that’s the end of everything. She wouldn’t have taken that view.”

* As Oscar Pistorius returns to court, watch eNCA reporter Karyn Maughan tell the story of his mother Sheila Pistorius. The story will screened on eNCA at 8pm and 9pm on Monday. 


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