2 October 1948
London, England, UK
Alexandra "Sandy" Ratcliff (born 2 October 1948 in Islington, London) is a former English actress. Ratcliff made an impression as a model and film actress in the 1970s, but she is best known for being one of the original cast members in the BBC soap opera EastEnders in the 1980s. She received acclaim for her portrayal of the tragic Sue Osman, but left the role in 1989 after it was revealed that she was a heroin addict. Since leaving EastEnders, things have been professionally quiet for Ratcliff, though her private life brought her into the headlines once again in the early 1990s. In 2010, she revealed she gave up acting to train as a counsellor, but has since retired.
Ratcliff - the daughter of an insurance salesman - had a turbulent youth. She was expelled at 12 from her grammar school. Within two years she was heavily smoking cannabis and she later went on to serve time in prison for selling it. 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.
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), where she took the title role of 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. In 1979 she appeared in Chris Petit's cult 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.
In 1985 Ratcliff became a household name as Sue Osman in the BBC serial EastEnders. Ratcliff 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, Ratcliff's character contended with cot death, infidelity and finally insanity. Off-screen Ratcliff was struggling with a publicised heroin addiction and in 1989 she was written out of the show.
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."
In 1991 Ratcliff's 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. His court case was to be her last public appearance.
In 2005 it was reported that Ratcliff no longer uses heroin and lives on a £70 a week disability allowance. In a 2010 interview, Ratcliff 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."
- Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 0-685-52957-6.
- Tony Bonnici (2005-02-17). "The Fall and Fall of an Eastenders Star". Daily Mirror.
- Emma Cox (2010-02-09). "Square are they". The Sun.
- Alistair Foster (2006-02-27). "How did they all eastend up?". The Evening Standard.
- Tony Bonnici (2005-02-12). "Square Are They Now?". Daily Mirror.