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‘We share your sorrow’: New Zealand mourns officer shot in Croydon

Written by on 26 September 2020

New Zealand’s prime minister has offered her condolences to family and colleagues of a police officer killed on duty in the UK.

Sergeant Matiu 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.

Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook that she was “incredibly sad” to hear the news of his death.

Image:
Met officers carry flowers to place at the scene

She added: “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, 54-year-old Sgt Ratana joined the force in 1991.

He was shot dead at Croydon Custody Centre 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.

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

Sgt Ratana, a talented rugby player and coach, was “big in stature and big in heart”, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said.

Killed in the line of duty: Officers who gave their lives protecting the public

Killed in the line of duty: Officers who gave their lives protecting the public

After leading police officers across the capital in a minute’s silence alongside Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, she paid tribute at a press conference: “His colleagues knew him as a big guy.

“Big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man, respected by his colleagues.

“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, she added.

Matthew Ratana was a custody sergeant in Croydon
Image:
Sergeant Ratana was a custody officer in Croydon

A murder inquiry has been launched and investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog have been at the scene.

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 sat in a holding area in a custody suite, then opened fire while still in handcuffs as officers prepared to search him with a metal detector.

“A non-police issue firearm, which appears to be a revolver, has been recovered from the scene,” the IOPC said. “Further ballistic work will be required.”

Police line up in Croydon to pay respects to a colleague who was shot dead while on duty.

Police honour officer after fatal shooting

Forces across the country flew flags at half-mast as a mark of respect and tributes poured in for Sgt Ratana, who Dame Cressida described as a “lovely, lovely, much-respected police officer”.

He was a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club and was described by a friend as “inspirational”.

The friend, Paul, told Sky News: “He helped out at the club a lot. We lost funding and he came in and helped us.

“He was inspirational – so vibrant, so bubbly, larger than life. He will be a huge loss to the club.

“The man was a machine. He was at training last night from 7 to 9pm. That’s the last time I saw him. He was due to retire soon and was looking forward to it.”

A note on flowers outside Croydon Custody Centre in south London
Image:
A note on flowers left outside Croydon Custody Centre

Community police officer Jacqueline Kufuor burst into tears after laying flowers, describing Sgt Ratana as “a lovely guy” and “the nicest man I have ever met”.

She said: “You never expect this to happen when you go to work. For him to have been in custody and for this to have happened, it is just so sad.”