Shot police sergeant epitomised officers’ work to protect others, says Met chief
A police sergeant shot by a handcuffed suspect in a custody suite has been hailed as the “epitome” of someone who was working to protect others.
The “terrible” death of Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana might give people an insight into the dangers and risks officers face, Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said.
Friends and teammates of the keen rugby coach gathered in tribute to him on Sunday, with silences at East Grinstead Rugby Club and at the National Police Memorial in central London where a wreath-laying ceremony took place.
Later on Sunday, the Prince of Wales will lead tributes to fallen police officers for National Police Memorial Day (NPMD), honouring those who have lost their lives on duty.
Speaking after the morning wreath-laying, which was also attended by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel, Dame Cressida said Sgt Ratana’s death brings home the challenges of police work.
She said: “If some good can come out of this terrible incident in which we have had one of our officers murdered it would be that more people can understand a little bit about the challenges of police work and to see us police as who we are – human beings, going to work to help people, to support people and to protect people.
“Matt was the epitome of that.”
Describing him as an “extraordinary person”, she added: “He had a wonderful personality and he was very good at his job.”
Members of the rugby club, where Sgt Ratana was head coach and seen by many as a “father figure”, have also come together to remember him.
Club vice-chairman Matt Marriott described him as a “truly remarkable fellow”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve actually never met anybody quite like Matt, he must have been an incredible policeman. His attention to detail and his strive for perfection, his work ethic, just blew all of us away.”
He added: “He wasn’t just a coach to the players. He was a role model, a mentor, and often actually a father figure. We’re going to mourn him as a family member. He’s left a big hole, to be honest.”
Junior and intermediate rugby was due to go ahead as planned on Sunday, with one club member saying “Matt would’ve wished that”.
The suspect in the killing at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of Friday remains in a critical condition in hospital.
The 23-year-old, who also shot himself, had still not been spoken to by officers on Saturday evening due to his condition.
Sgt Ratana, 54, was originally from New Zealand and joined the Met in 1991. He leaves behind a partner and a grown-up son.
Other tributes have come from New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Sgt Ratana’s cousin Adrian Rurawhe, who is an MP in his home country.
He told Times Radio: “He had a really big personality. You couldn’t help but gravitate towards him. He was very engaging and had natural-born leadership skills.”
Giving an investigation update, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said Sgt Ratana’s death had marked a “dark and sad day for the police family”.
He added: “Everyone working on this investigation, from the forensic specialists to the local officers holding the cordons, does so with a heavy heart but a determination to find justice for our colleague and his family.”
He said police are “painstakingly” searching four crime scenes in connection with the killing, including the custody suite where the incident unfolded at about 2.15am on Friday.
Forensic searches are also being carried out in an area of London Road, Pollards Hill, Norbury, where the suspect was initially arrested by officers for possession of ammunition and possession of class B drugs.
Other searches are taking place at an address on Southbrook Road, also in Norbury, and at a second address on Park Road, Banstead in Surrey, where local officers from Surrey Police are helping.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which attended the scene after the shooting, said the suspect had been taken into the building and sat in a holding area in the custody suite, then opened fire while still in handcuffs as officers prepared to search him with a metal detector.
He had earlier been arrested by regular officers following a stop and search, then handcuffed behind his back before being taken to the station in a police vehicle.
No police firearms were fired in the incident, and the case is not being treated as terror-related.
Deputy assistant commissioner Cundy said a gun had been recovered from where the shooting happened, and that CCTV and police body-worn footage is being reviewed and will be considered alongside accounts from officers.
Sgt Ratana is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the last 20 years and the first to be murdered by a firearm in the line of duty since Pcs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, in September 2012.
The Met sergeant is the 17th from the force to be killed by a firearm since the end of the Second World War, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honour.