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The BIG Drive Home

2:00 pm 6:00 pm

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‘Everyone liked him, even people he arrested’: Tributes to sergeant shot dead in custody suite

Written by on 2 October 2020

Members of the Metropolitan Police have spoken of their sadness over the death of their colleague Sergeant Matt Ratana, one week on from his fatal shooting at Croydon Custody Centre.

Officers and Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick also joined in with a minute’s silence across London on Friday in memory of the 54-year-old.

It came after an inquest into the death of Sgt Ratana was opened and adjourned on Thursday – it heard that he died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

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Police officers held a minute’s silence for Sgt Ratana and colleagues (below) have paid tribute to him
Colleagues of murdered police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana (left to right) Sergeant Gareth Starr, PC Paul Reading and Sergeant Chris Excell at Scotland Yard, London.

Leading the latest round of tributes was Constable Paul Reading, who is based in the Paddington area of London.

“Everyone liked him, even people he arrested,” he joked.

Pc Reading met New Zealand-born Sgt Ratana in 2008, and said he liked to visit the station even on his days off because he “always wanted to be around his police family”.

“He was a real approachable man, he looked after his team,” he said.

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“He was your typical, big, strong Kiwi rugby player, and he was so proud of his heritage.”

Pc Reading added that Sgt Ratana was “our old-fashioned copper, very fair, very firm, and he would treat everyone like you would want your parents to be treated”.

PC Paul Reading, a colleague of murdered police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana, at Scotland Yard, London.
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PC Paul Reading said everyone loved Sgt Ratana, ‘even those he arrested’

Sergeant Gareth Starr, who met Sgt Ratana in 2007 while working in Paddington Green, said he had received a phone call early in the morning to inform him of what happened.

He said: “It’s had a huge impact on everybody, even our own children that watch their parents go out to work every day thinking that that could be us.

“It’s been very sombre. Matt appears a lot, whether we’re on social media or reading the news.

“He didn’t ever leave us anyway – and we’d often talk of Matt in the office where I’ve got colleagues who have worked with him over the years, sharing stories, laughing.

“It’s had a huge impact, it’s dumbed down everything we do, without a shadow of a doubt. We’re just very sombre and very solemn, it’s just terribly sad. You don’t get two Matts.”

Sergeant Gareth Starr, a colleague of murdered police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana, at Scotland Yard, London.
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Sergeant Gareth Starr said he was phoned early in the morning about the incident

Sergeant Chris Excell, a custody officer from southeast London, said he had known Sgt Ratana for 12 years, saying he was a friend and a mentor.

Sgt Excell said he was in disbelief when he heard the news about his friend’s death, adding: “It doesn’t feel real yet, we all used to talk about him while he was still here.

“Matt was really good at being caring and compassionate – he was an exemplary officer. I remember the last thing he said to me was ‘a rubbish day only lasts 24 hours’.”

Sergeant Chris Excell, a colleague of murdered police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana at Scotland Yard, London.
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Sergeant Chris Excell worked alongside Sgt Ratana

The suspect in the shooting, understood by Sky News to be 23-year-old Louis De Zoysa, is yet to be questioned by detectives as he remains in hospital in a critical condition.

He had originally been detained by police in the Pollards Hill area of south London at 1.30am last Friday, and taken into custody on suspicion of the possession of ammunition and a class B drug.

A second man was arrested in Norwich on Sunday on suspicion of supplying a firearm and has been bailed until later this month.