Real-life tragedy yesterday shattered the stars of Crossroads the hit TV soap opera. Actor Roger Tonge, who played
Sandy Richardson lost his long battle against cancer.
Last night the news of his death was broken to actress Noele Gordon - Sandy's TV mum Meg Richardson - at her holiday hideaway
in Australia. She said: "I'm shattered. He has been the sort of son I would have liked to have had in real
life. He was an underrated actor and a fine young man. I don't know what we are going to do without him."
The 35 year old bachelor died in the Royal Marsden hospital in Sutton, Surrey, from Hodkins Disease. In 1975 he had
an operation to remove his spleen - but it failed to halt the deadly illness.
Roger rocketed to stardom when he landed the part which made him a household name, in 1964. The baby-faced actor
was just 18, and ignored the advice of his workmates at the Post Office not to give up a steady job.
And Miss Gordon still recalls that day. "He literally walked in off the streets for that audition," she said.
"After it was over, I put my arms round him, and said: "You have got to be in the show. I feel you are my son."
Roger was last seen in the show, about life at a motel, on February 4. The cast of the chart-topping show were told
about the tragedy after rehearsals at ATV's Birmingham studios.
Jane Rossington, who played Sandy's sister, said: "We all burst into tears and fled to the dressing rooms.
It is just like losing a brother. Roger was a super person. I was terribly shocked, even though I knew he was
very ill." She added: "We played brother and sister on the screen and were like that in real life too. Crossroads
is a family."
Paul Henry, who plays Benny, the lovable idiot, said: "You would never have known Roger was ill at all.
He never complained in any way whatsoever. They worked it so he could go and have his treatment at weekends - but he
never spoke about it. If you asked how he was he always said 'Oh great'."
Producer Jack Barton said: "I don't know how we are going to deal with this tragedy on the screen. But we will
have to cause as little distress as possible to the parents who are both elderly."
Roger's illness had nothing to do with his appearance on screen in a wheelchair. That was explained by a fictional
road crash after the series started.