Sandy Ratcliff

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Sandy Ratcliff
Alexandra Ratcliff

(1948-10-02)2 October 1948
Died7 April 2019(2019-04-07) (aged 70)
London, England, UK
Years active1970–1991

Alexandra "Sandy" Ratcliff (2 October 1948 – 7 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.

Early life[edit]

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.


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.

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]

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).

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]

Personal life[edit]

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 7 April 2019. She was 70 years old.[7][8]


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Family Life Janice Baildon
1973 The Final Programme Jenny as Sandy Ratcliffe
1979 Yesterday's Hero Rita as Sandy Ratcliffe
1979 Radio On Kathy
1980 Hussy Olympia
1982 Doll's Eye Maggie
1983 The Balance of Nature Julie TV film


  1. ^ Kingsley, Hilary (1990). The EastEnders Handbook. BBC books. ISBN 978-0-685-52957-7.
  2. ^ a b c Tony Bonnici (17 February 2005). "The Fall and Fall of an Eastenders Star". Daily Mirror.
  3. ^ Myall, Steve (8 February 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. ^ a b Emma Cox (9 February 2010). "Square are they". The Sun.
  5. ^ Alistair Foster (27 February 2006). "How did they all eastend up?". The Evening Standard.
  6. ^ Tony Bonnici (12 February 2005). "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

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