Memorials have been held for Sgt Matiu Ratana, the “extraordinary” police officer shot dead in Croydon this week. Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick paid tribute to the “wonderful” officer known to colleagues and friends as Matt, in a ceremony at the National Police Memorial in central London on Sunday also attended by Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
By Kit Heren
Members of the East Grinstead rugby club in Sussex where Sgt Ratana was a coach also came together to mourn his death and remember his life on Sunday.
Dame Cressida called Sgt Ratana the “epitome” of someone who was working to protect others and said his “terrible” death might give people an insight into the dangers faced by police officers in the line of duty.
Speaking after laying wreaths alongside Ms Patel and Ms Khan, 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”, also held a memorial in his honour.
Multiple tributes were laid outside the clubhouse and two periods of silence – for junior and senior club members – were held on Sunday morning.
The club flag was flown alongside the New Zealand flag and the All Blacks rugby team flag to honour Sgt Ratana’s roots.
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.”
Pc Sarah D’Silva, who plays as a winger for the club’s women’s team, laid a signed Metropolitan Police jacket alongside the other tributes and received applause from players and other club members.
Pc D’Silva, 26, who also works at Croydon police station, said that coming down to the club for the memorial silence was especially “poignant” for her.
“He was an absolutely fantastic character, full of life with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen and a fantastic mentor on the rugby field and for the police as well,” she said.
“Any question was never too much for Matt and it’s deeply saddening to know from such a deeply tragic event has resulted in the loss of Matt’s life.
“I can’t put into words how shocked I am and also the colleagues that are beside me in the blue line family. It’s a completely tragic event.”
Ryan Morlen, 31, assistant head coach at EGRFC, said that the news would “take time to process” but the close-knit club had pulled together.
“It’s tough really with the loss of Matt, he’s an irreplaceable figure,” he said. “The club here, from juniors, seniors, to the women’s team they’re going to really miss Matt. It’s going to take time to process.
“As a community he brought a lot of things together. I spoke to Matt every single day… and there are thousands of people out there that really looked up to him….
“Nothing is enough to show how much we loved that guy and how much of a role model he was to many, and he really was.”
Dame Cressida also highlighted Sgt Ratana’s sporting enthusiasm as a “proud Kiwi” at the memorial service in London.
“He was a truly great sportsman and a leader in sport. Sport of course takes you into wider worlds,” she said. “He was a proud Kiwi… and played sport all over the place.
“Those worlds, the sporting world and the London communities world – perhaps I don’t know quite so much about that – but as a police officer, so many people knew how good he was and he’ll be sorely, sorely missed.”
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.”
The 23-year-old suspect in the killing at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of Friday remains in a critical condition in hospital after shooting himself.
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.