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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 01:40 GMT
Shane meets fans in birthday suit
Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace
Ritchie's EastEnders wife, Jessie Wallace, is on the guest list
EastEnders star Shane Richie surprised a crowd of fans outside his 40th birthday party after mingling with them disguised in a tiger suit.

Richie, who plays pub landlord Alfie Moon in the BBC soap, slipped unnoticed into a crowd of fans gathered outside his home in Denham, Bucks.

He stayed for almost 10 minutes before revealing his identity, pulling off the mask and shouting "ta-ra folks".

Homeless magazine the Big Issue bought rights to cover the event - for 1.10.

Autograph signing

Among the early guests to arrive was boxer Chris Eubank, in a black bowler hat and white tie.

Another was actress Hilda Braid - Richie's on-screen grandmother, Nana Moon - who signed autographs for local children before heading in to the party.

Asked what she had brought as a present, she replied: "I've brought a bottle of Port and some Stilton and biscuits."

Other early arrivals included This Morning co-presenters Philip Schofield and Fern Britton and ex-presenter John Leslie.

Fellow Eastenders stars included Ray Panthaki, who plays transplant patient Ronny Ferreira, as well as James Alexandrou, who plays Martin Fowler.

Ritchie's EastEnders wife, Jessie Wallace, was also on the guest list.

Star 'relaxed'

Actress Bernie Nolan, sister of Richie's ex-wife Colleen, arrived clutching a Mont Blanc money clip as a birthday present for Richie.

Nolan, who stars in ITV's The Bill, said Richie was relaxed about turning 40.

She said: "I don't think he's that bothered, nothing bothers Shane, we are just really looking forward to it."

Asked what she intended to do at the party she said: "To get very, very drunk indeed."

Richie was offered 150,000 by a glossy magazine to cover the event, but instead chose the Big Issue because he slept rough for two weeks himself at the age of 16.

The 1.10p gives Richie 1 and his agent 10p commission.

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