Investigations continue into murder of MPS officer at police station

Investigations are continuing into the death of Sergeant Matiu Ratana of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) who was shot dead by a handcuffed suspect at a South London custody suite.

Sep 26, 2020
By Website Editor
Sergeant Matiu Ratana

Known as Matt to his family and friends, 54-year-old Sgt Ratana, who was originally from New Zealand, joined the force in 1991.

He died in hospital after the 23-year-old gunman opened fire at Croydon Custody Centre in South London in the early hours of Friday.

The suspect, who had been arrested in South West London for possession of Class B drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, also shot himself during the incident at about 2.15am and is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

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

A murder investigation is being led by homicide officers from the MPS Specialist Crime Command investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) attended the scene.

The IOPC have obtained CCTV from the custody centre as well as body-worn video footage from the officers present.

These will now be reviewed in the coming days, and initial accounts from the officers present will also be taken.

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

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “It is at that point that shots were fired resulting in the fatal injuries to the officer and critical injuries to the man.

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

MPS Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who with the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, led police officers across the capital in a minute’s silence on Friday, described Sgt Ratana as a “talented police officer”.

He was “big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man and highly respected by his colleagues”, and leaves behind a partner and adult son, Dame Cressida said.

Forensic officers in white suits were seen entering the police station on Friday morning, while floral tributes were left throughout the day.

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”.

John Davies, a former colleague of Sgt Ratana, described him as a “proud Maori” and added: “I’d just like to say that he was a truly remarkable, strong and unique individual.

“He would have left an impression on all those he came into contact with.”

East Grinstead Rugby Football Club also released a tribute to the “much-loved” coach.

Bob Marsh, the club’s chairman, and Andy Poole, the club’s president, said: “Matt was an inspiring and much-loved figure at the club and there are truly no words to describe how we are feeling.

“We would like to take some time as a club and community to begin to comprehend what has happened.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also among those who reacted to the news, as he tweeted: “My deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer who was killed in Croydon last night.

“We owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Leroy Logan, a former MPS superintendent, said there were questions to be answered around the circumstances which led to the shooting.

“How did that person come to be in the station, whether it’s in the yard or the building itself, and be able to produce a weapon, whether it’s on them at the time?” he told BBC News.

Sgt Ratana is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the past 20 years and the first to be murdered by a firearm in the line of duty since Police Constables Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, in September 2012.

They were murdered by Dale Cregan in a gun and grenade attack while responding to a report of a burglary in Greater Manchester.

The MPS 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.

Unarmed PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed in March 2017 by terrorist Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge attack, was the last Met officer to be killed in the line of duty.

The roll of honour includes PC Andrew Harper, who died when he was caught in a tow rope and dragged along country lanes after trying to stop quad bike thieves in Berkshire in August 2019.

The Thames Valley Police officer’s three teenage killers were cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter after an Old Bailey trial.

His widow Lissie Harper, who is campaigning for a change to the law which would see all those convicted of killing emergency workers receive a life sentence, said: “This is devastating news.

“No person should go to work never to return. No human being should be stripped of their life in a barbaric act of crime.

“Another hero has been taken from us in unwarranted violence.”

Paying tribute to Sgt Ratana, Dame Cressida said: “He joined the Met in 1991 and was captain of his recruit training class. Posted to Charing Cross and worked as a constable on the streets of the West End and Westminster in various roles. Later, he worked with the Territorial Support Group and in Hillingdon.

“In 2010 he worked as a sergeant in Hackney in the response team and in neighbourhoods. Five years later, in 2015, he moved to Croydon, where he worked in response, in neighbourhoods and then our detention command.

“In all, nearly 30 years spent as an uniformed officer serving the public of London.

“He was originally from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, and educated, I believe, at Palmerston North Boys School, where he developed a passion for rugby.

“After Otago University, he came to London in 1989 and played for London Irish. He was a leader in his sport, well known as a player in several teams including the Met Police, and as a coach, most recently at East Grinstead.

“As a colleague, he was big in stature and big-hearted, a friendly, capable police officer. A lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, and by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody.

“He was very well known locally and will be remembered so fondly in Croydon, as well as in the Met and the rugby world.”

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