Croydon police shooting: 'We share your sorrow' - New Zealand mourns officer's death

25 September 2020, 15:48 | Updated: 26 September 2020, 12:09

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.

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.

No police firearms were fired in the incident 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."

Met Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, after leading officers across the capital in a minute's silence alongside Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, paid tribute to Sgt Ratana at a press conference.

"His colleagues knew him as a big guy," she said. "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.

A murder inquiry has been launched by colleagues of Sgt Ratana, 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 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."

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."

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."