Hollyoaks Mandy abuse storyline explained - what happened in 1998

Daniel Kilkelly
·5-min read

From Digital Spy

Note: This story discusses themes including rape and sexual abuse that some readers may find upsetting.

Hollyoaks revisits a dark storyline from the '90s this week, as Mandy Richardson reflects on her traumatic past.

In the show's special episode focusing on mental health, Mandy (Sarah Jayne Dunn) confides in Cindy Cunningham about how events from her childhood continue to affect her in the present day.

Long-term Hollyoaks fans will know that Mandy is a survivor of sexual abuse. If you're unfamiliar with this storyline, here's a recap on what you need to know.

Who was Mandy abused by?

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

As Mandy mentions during her heart-to-heart with Cindy this week, she was sexually abused by her father Dennis Richardson. Mandy made her first appearance in Hollyoaks in 1996, and her dad Dennis made his on-screen debut the following year.

Dennis – played by actor David McAlister – was a teacher at the Hollyoaks High School. A violent alcoholic, Dennis terrorised his family behind closed doors. Viewers saw the first hints of his dark side in November 1997 when he slapped Mandy in school. She later sought refuge by moving in with her brother Lewis alongside her mum.

How did the story develop?

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

Mandy's storyline stepped up a gear in 1998 when she decided to give her father another chance. In trouble at school, Mandy agreed that Dennis could tutor her and he was later welcomed back in by his family.

Sadly, events took another sinister turn in May of that year when Dennis became jealous over Mandy's relationship with Sol Patrick. In one of Hollyoaks' first big issue-based storylines, Dennis raped his daughter and she later disappeared, struggling to come to terms with what had happened.

Was justice served?

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

Mandy's storyline was a slow-burn plot for Hollyoaks. After going missing in June 1998, Mandy wasn't seen by her loved ones again until October and they had no idea why she'd gone AWOL. Fears had started to grow that Mandy had taken her own life, but Lewis tracked her down at a hospital and rushed to her bedside.

Mandy confided in her brother about Dennis raping her, also revealing that their father had been molesting her for the majority of her life. She also later bravely reported Dennis to the police.

Although Dennis tried to bully Mandy into dropping the charges, he was later found guilty of rape and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

The impact

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

As this storyline played out in the early days of Hollyoaks, it was one of the first times that the show explored such a serious issue. Mandy's storyline aired two years before Hollyoaks went on to cover the topic of male rape with the character of Luke Morgan.

David McAlister, who played Dennis, was so convincing in the role that he received hate mail from some viewers. Sarah Jayne Dunn, who played Mandy, was also widely praised for her sensitive portrayal of such a difficult issue.

Speaking in an interview with Digital Spy's Soap Scoop podcast last year, Sarah explained: "For me it was a really big moment because it was Mandy's first big storyline. I really felt that, by giving me that storyline, the producers and writers trusted me to be able to tell it.

"I think it was a real turning point for Mandy, and myself maturing. My mum was actually chaperoning me at the time, because I was 14 or 15.

"So I had my own mum there with me to make sure everything was okay if there was anything I felt uncomfortable with. Which I didn't, but she was there to check in, she was overseeing everything and everyone checked in with her. It was really nice to have her there.

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

"For me it was the confidence that it gave me – that the writers and producers trusted me enough to give me this big storyline. I'm really pleased we told it and I feel that it really developed the storyline."

Meanwhile, speaking in an interview for Hollyoaks: The Official Companion in 2002, Sarah said: "I had a few letters telling me how good they thought it was and how believable it seemed. The actor that played my father, David McAlister, was an excellent actor. He was so believable that I was genuinely scared in the scenes.

"He would be vicious and grab hold of me, and all the fear from me would be real! Apparently people used to boo David on the streets, but he was a really nice man – just a convincing actor."

The storyline was notably mentioned again in 2018, when Mandy supported her stepson Ollie Morgan following the revelation that he'd been abused by his football coach Buster Smith. Mandy explained her history to Ollie and how she could relate to what he was going through.

Did we see Dennis again?

Photo credit: Lime Pictures
Photo credit: Lime Pictures

Dennis was released from prison after five years and tried to make peace with his family afterwards, but Mandy never forgave him for his horrifying crimes. By the time of his release, his son Lewis had taken his own life, fearing he was turning into his dad after starting to become violent.

Dennis made his final appearance in early 2003, after he'd been diagnosed with liver cancer. Mandy bought him some alcohol to quicken his death and was able to rebuild her life after he'd passed away.

In real life, David McAlister sadly died in 2015 at the age of 64.

Hollyoaks airs on weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first-look screenings at 7pm on E4.

Rape Crisis England and Wales works towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct. If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland's helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.

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