Sandy Ratcliff

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Sandy Ratcliff
Alexandra Ratcliff

(1948-10-02)2 October 1948
London, England
Died6 April 2019(2019-04-06) (aged 70)
London, England
Years active1970–1991

Alexandra "Sandy" Ratcliff (2 October 1948 – 6 April 2019) was an English actress. She made an impression as a model and film actress in the 1970s, but she was best known for being one of the original cast members in the BBC soap opera EastEnders in the 1980s. She portrayed the tragic Sue Osman [1] but left the role in 1989, after it was revealed that she was addicted to heroin and alcohol. After leaving EastEnders, things were professionally quiet for Ratcliff, though her private life brought her into the headlines once again in the early 1990s. In 2010, she revealed she had given up acting to train as a counsellor, but later retired.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

A soap opera is an ongoing drama serial on television or radio, featuring the lives of many characters and their emotional relationships. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas being sponsored by soap manufacturers.

<i>EastEnders</i> British television soap opera

EastEnders is a British soap opera created by Julia Smith and Tony Holland which has been broadcast on BBC One since 1985. Set in Albert Square in the East End of London in the fictional Borough of Walford, the programme follows the stories of local residents and their families as they go about their daily lives. Initially there were two 30-minute episodes per week, later increasing to three, but since 2001 episodes have been broadcast every weekday apart from Wednesdays.


Early life

Ratcliff, the daughter of an insurance salesman, had a turbulent youth. When aged 12, she was expelled from her grammar school.[ citation needed ] Within two years she was heavily smoking cannabis, and she later went on to serve time in prison for selling it. [2] [ not in citation given ] [3] She had numerous jobs before she took up acting, including waitressing, disc-jockeying and performing as a guitarist in the rock groups Tropical Appetite and Escalator.

Cannabis (drug) preparation of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug and medicine

Cannabis, also known as marijuana among other names, is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes. The main psychoactive part of cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 65 other cannabinoids. Cannabis can be used by smoking, vaporizing, within food, or as an extract.

Prison place in which people legally are physically confined and usually deprived of a range of personal freedoms

A prison, also known as a correctional facility, jail, gaol, penitentiary, detention center, remand center, or internment facility, is a facility in which inmates are forcibly confined and denied a variety of freedoms under the authority of the state. Prisons are most commonly used within a criminal justice system: people charged with crimes may be imprisoned until their trial; those pleading or being found guilty of crimes at trial may be sentenced to a specified period of imprisonment. In simplest terms, a prison can also be described as a building in which people are legally held as a punishment for a crime they have committed.


Ratcliff's career changed direction at 23, when she made a big impression as a model and was cast as "The face of the '70s" by royal photographer Lord Snowdon. This later facilitated a move into film. Her first major role was in the Ken Loach BAFTA-nominated film Family Life (1971), in which she played a schizophrenic teenage girl. This was followed by roles in slightly less well-received films including The Final Programme (1973), Yesterday's Hero (1979) and Hussy (1980) with Helen Mirren. She also appeared in Chris Petit's British road movie Radio On (1979). Ratcliff subsequently acted in several television productions including Minder , Couples, Play for Today , Target , The Sweeney , Shoestring and Shelley , and on stage in 1981 in the Ray Davies/Kinks musical, Chorus Girls .

Model (person) person employed to display, advertise and promote products, or to serve as a visual aid

A model is a person with a role either to promote, display or advertise commercial products, or to serve as a visual aid for people who are creating works of art or to pose for photography.

Ken Loach British film director and screenwriter

Kenneth Charles Loach is an English director of television and independent film. His socially critical directing style and socialist ideals are evident in his film treatment of social issues such as poverty, homelessness and labour rights.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is an independent charity that supports, develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image in the United Kingdom. In addition to its annual awards ceremonies, BAFTA has an international programme of learning events and initiatives offering access to talent through workshops, masterclasses, scholarships, lectures and mentoring schemes in the United Kingdom and the United States.

She became a household name in 1985, as Sue Osman in the BBC serial EastEnders . She played the long-suffering wife of highly-strung cafe owner and mini-cab boss Ali Osman (Nejdet Salih). During her four years in the series, her character contended with cot death, infidelity and finally insanity. Off-screen Ratcliff was struggling with a publicised heroin addiction, and she was written out of the show in 1989. [2]

Sue Osman

Sue Osman is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Sandy Ratcliff. She is one of the serial's original characters, appearing in its first episode on 19 February 1985 and departing on-screen in May 1989. Created by Tony Holland and Julia Smith, Sue is portrayed as argumentative, insecure and tragic. A pivotal storyline in the character's narrative is the cot-death of her son, which was one of the show's first controversial plots. During her four years on-screen, the character contends with a phantom pregnancy, marital breakdown and finally insanity. Ratcliff left the role in 1989 after press stories began circulating about her private life.

Ali Osman

Ali Osman is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Nejdet Salih. He was a member of the original EastEnders cast, appearing in the first episode on 19 February 1985. He remained with the show for nearly five years afterwards, making his last appearance on 10 October 1989. Ali was scripted as happy-go-lucky, which was in stark contrast to his highly strung wife, Sue. Central to his storylines were his penchant for gambling, his tempestuous marriage, and the loss of his son to cot death, which was one of the first controversial storylines covered by the soap. He was created by Julia Smith and Tony Holland, the creators of EastEnders.

Insanity abnormal mental or behavioral patterns

Insanity, madness, and craziness are terms that describe a spectrum of individual and group behaviors that are characterized by certain abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. Insanity can be manifest as violations of societal norms, including a person or persons becoming a danger to themselves or to other people. Conceptually, mental insanity also is associated with the biological phenomenon of contagion as in the case of copycat suicides. In contemporary usage, the term insanity is an informal, un-scientific term denoting "mental instability"; thus, the term insanity defense is the legal definition of mental instability. In medicine, the general term psychosis is used to include the presence either of delusions or of hallucinations or both in a patient; and psychiatric illness is "psychopathology", not mental insanity.

Her television appearances after EastEnders were in 1992's Maigret opposite Michael Gambon, and in the BBC2 productions A Box Of Swan (1990) and Men Of The Month (1994).

Michael Gambon Irish born British actor

Sir Michael John Gambon is an Irish-born British character actor who has worked in theatre, television, and film. He was trained under Laurence Olivier and started his long work on stage in the National Theatre before retiring in 2015 due to memory loss.

BBC Two second television channel operated by the BBC

BBC Two is the second flagship television channel of the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Channel Islands. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tends to broadcast more "highbrow" programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio channels, it is funded by the television licence, and is therefore free of commercial advertising. It is a comparatively well-funded public-service network, regularly attaining a much higher audience share than most public-service networks worldwide.

In 2010, Ratcliff revealed in an interview with The Sun that she retrained as a counsellor, before retiring. She added that "If you had asked me last year if I wanted to go back to acting I would have said no. I was working too hard then and I felt tired. Now, I would say yes. If anyone needs someone to play a bag lady, I could do that." [4]

<i>The Sun</i> (United Kingdom) Tabloid newspaper from the United Kingdom and Ireland

The Sun is a tabloid newspaper published in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. As a broadsheet, it was founded in 1964 as a successor to the Daily Herald; it became a tabloid in 1969 after it was purchased by its current owners. It is published by the News Group Newspapers division of News UK, itself a wholly owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Since The Sun on Sunday was launched in February 2012, the paper has been a seven-day operation. The Sun previously had the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom, but it was overtaken by rival Metro in March 2018.

A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. They may help individuals deal with issues associated with addictions and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. This title excludes "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists".

Personal life

Ratcliff married photographer Peter Wright in Kensington, London in 1968. They broke up and by 1973 she had her only son, William, by theatre director Terence Palmer.

In 1991, her then boyfriend Michael Shorey stood trial at the Old Bailey after he was accused of killing two women. Despite Ratcliff giving him an alibi, she claimed in the witness box that they were making love at the time, he was found guilty and is now serving two life sentences for murder. [5] His court case was to be her last public appearance. [6]

In 2005, it was reported that Ratcliff no longer used heroin and lived on a £70 a week disability allowance. [2] In a 2010 interview, she commented on the press intrusion following her departure from EastEnders, saying: "I had a hard time when I left the show. There were stories about my drug addiction, and I was quite an innocent, even in my thirties. Some of the things written about me hurt me and made me quite ill. But I recovered and moved on to other things." [4]


Ratcliff died in her sleep and her body was found on 6 April 2019. She was 70 years old. [7] [8]

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  1. Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN   978-0-685-52957-7.
  2. 1 2 3 Tony Bonnici (2005-02-17). "The Fall and Fall of an Eastenders Star". Daily Mirror.
  3. Myall, Steve (8 Feb 2010). "EastEnders: We track down the soap stars who left Walford". Retrieved 13 May 2018. Actress Sandy Ratcliff's life after leaving her role as Sue in 1989 reads like an Albert Square plotline. After struggling with heroin addiction, she played a starring role at the 1991 Old Bailey trial of her ex Michael Shorey, claiming they were making love at the time he was accused of killing two young women. He was jailed for life for murder. She now ekes out a living doing part time jobs and lives in a run-down ground floor flat on a busy road in North London with her partner.
  4. 1 2 Emma Cox (2010-02-09). "Square are they". The Sun .
  5. Alistair Foster (2006-02-27). "How did they all eastend up?". The Evening Standard.
  6. Tony Bonnici (2005-02-12). "Square Are They Now?". Daily Mirror.
  7. Harp, Justin (8 April 2019). "EastEnders original cast member Sandy Ratcliff – who played Sue Osman – dies at age 70". Digital Spy.
  8. "EastEnders actress Sandy Ratcliff dies aged 70". 9 April 2019 via