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‘Proud’ family pays tribute to ‘awesome’ police officer killed in shooting

Written by on 25/09/2020

The sergeant killed after being shot by a handcuffed suspect in a custody suite was an “awesome person” who “loved being a police officer”, his cousin has said.

Matiu Ratana, 54, who was known as Matt, died in hospital following the shooting in Croydon in the early hours of Friday.

Paying tribute, Adrian Rurawhe described his cousin as someone with a “big personality” who was “easy to engage with”.

Matthew Ratana was a custody sergeant in Croydon
Image: Police officer Matt Ratana was shot dead while taking a suspect into custody
Met officers carry flowers to place at the scene in south London
Image: Met officers have left flowers in tribute at the scene

Sgt Ratana was originally from Hawke’s Bay on New Zealand’s North Island but had served with the Metropolitan Police for much of his career.

Mr Rurawhe, who is an MP, said his family in New Zealand had been left “numb” by news of his death.

“We’re really sad, both that he’s gone too soon but also the nature of how he’s gone,” he said. “The whole family’s feeling devastated…

“We’ll remember him with fondness and love. We’re really proud of the work he’s done as a police officer.”

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Sgt Ratana, who was looking forward to retirement, was also a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club.

Mr Rurawhe described him as “pretty fearless” on the rugby pitch.

“He loved playing but he also loved giving back,” he told TVNZ. “So he’d do coaching and I’ve got no doubt over there he would have been contributing to the rugby clubs that he was involved in and the community.

“He was that kind of person. Very giving.”

Rugby player Colm Geraghty, who was coached by Sgt Ratana, told Sky News: “He inspired me to go and thrive to be the best I can. He was a leader at the club, everyone follows suit from what he did.

“He set the example and everyone follows. Everyone knew what it meant to play for his team, to play for his shirt. We’re all completely honoured and it’s horrible to hear that he died.

“He wanted the best from you and he did everything that he possibly could to do that for you as well.”

Colm Geraghty
Image: Colm Geraghty said his rugby coach inspired him

Sgt Ratana’s friend, gym owner Neil Donohue, who saw him the day before he died, paid tribute to a “totally genuine guy”.

He said: “He didn’t care what side of the street you walked on. He took you at face value. If you were having a down day he would come and give you a big hug and cheer you up. He was a big fella. He was so liked by everyone. It’s very sad.”

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she was “incredibly sad” and offered her condolences to family and colleagues.

She added on Facebook: “Sergeant Ratana worked in Auckland City and Counties Manukau until 2008, before returning to the UK. To all Matiu’s whanau (family) across the world, we share your sorrow and have all our condolences.”

Known as Matt to his family and friends, Sgt Ratana joined the force in 1991.

He was shot dead at Croydon Custody Centre in south London by a handcuffed suspect armed with a revolver at about 2.15am on Friday, and later died in hospital.

The 23-year-old suspect, who had been arrested for possession of Class B drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, also shot himself during the incident and is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Matt Ratana, the police officer shot dead in Croydon, posing in his uniform
Image: Sergeant Ratana was a custody officer in Croydon

No police firearms were fired and the case is not being treated as terror-related.

It is understood the suspect was not regarded as a subject of interest by security services, but reports suggest he may have previously been referred to the anti-extremism Prevent programme.

Sky’s crime correspondent Martin Brunt said: “It does seem the suspect was at some stage on the radar of counter-terror police but as far as we know was never formally investigated by MI5.

“If anything, he was very much a peripheral figure in terms of any terror connection.”

Police line up in Croydon to pay respects to a colleague who was shot dead while on duty.
Police honour officer after fatal shooting

Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick paid tribute to an officer who was “big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man, respected by his colleagues”.

She said: “He was very well known locally and he will be remembered so fondly in Croydon and missed there, as well as in the Met.”

Sgt Ratana leaves behind a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

A murder inquiry has been launched by police, and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog has also begun an investigation.

The suspect was arrested by regular officers following a stop and search, then handcuffed behind his back before being taken to the station in a police vehicle.

The IOPC said he was taken into the building and was sitting in a holding area in a custody suite, and opened fire while still in handcuffs as officers prepared to search him with a metal detector.

 Sky News

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