Julia Roberts: her half sister was found dead.

Julia Roberts: mourning half sister. Photo: Getty Images

Julia Roberts returned to her hometown in Georgia at the weekend to pay tribute to her half sister Nancy Motes, who died of a drug overdose in February.

The Oscar-winning actress flew with her mother Betty Lou from Los Angeles to Smyrna in Georgia , to attend a graveyard memorial service for Motes and gave a moving  tribute to her sister at the private ceremony in front of a small gathering of friends and family, a source told the Daily Mail.

“No one was really expecting it, but Julia gave a little speech at one point during the ceremony,” the source told MailOnline. “She kept it brief, but it was absolutely heartfelt and very moving. It showed just how much Nancy meant to her and was really fitting.”

After the short ceremony Roberts, 46, stayed back to catch up with old friends and family and later attended the wake at a hotel, which was also a low-key event.

The Pretty Woman star didn’t attend the public ceremony, held in early March in Santa Monica, California which was lead by Motes’ fiance John Dilbeck.

Motes had left a five-page letter detailing her sometimes troubled relationship with her famous sister. Roberts was criticised for initially remaining silent about her sisters death, but she opened up in an interview for The Wall Street Journal last month.

“It’s just heartbreak,” Roberts told the WSJ. “There aren’t words to explain what any of us have been through in these last 20 days. “It’s so hard to formulate a sentence about it outside the weepy huddle of my family,” she said.

But if Motes’ last interviews were anything to go by, their family was far from idyllic.

Motes spoke at length of her fraught relationship with her older half sister to the New York Daily News last August. She said Roberts had teased her for years about her weight.

In 2010 Motes, who was nine years younger than her famous sister, underwent gastric bypass surgery and lost almost half her bodyweight, dropping to around 70 kilograms. 

Since her surgery they had both been “trying to change our opinions of each other”, she said. “It’s a work in progress.” 

Despite the hurt feelings, Motes said at the time that she still loved her famous sister. “I love Julia absolutely, and I have no doubt she loves me,” said Motes.