‘Big-hearted – a lovely man’: Tributes paid to ‘larger than life’ sergeant

Tributes have been paid to the “friendly, capable, lovely” police sergeant shot dead in custody suite in Croydon.

Sergeant Matt Ratana was known as a “big guy” to his colleagues – “big in stature and big-hearted”, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said.

He was a “lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody”, she added.

The 54-year-old was shot inside Croydon custody centre just after 2am on Friday. The 23-year-old suspect is believed to have then turned the gun on himself and is still in a critical condition in hospital.

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The New Zealand-born policeman worked as a custody sergeant in Croydon

Mr Ratana was a keen rugby player and played for the London Irish after arriving in the UK from New Zealand in 1989.

Most recently he was a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, where his friend Paul described him as “a huge loss”.

He told Sky News: “He helped out at the club a lot.

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

Paul last saw him the night before he died and said he was “due to retire soon and looking forward to it”.

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Sgt Ratana joined the force in 1991

Sgt Ratana, who leaves behind a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship, joined the Met in 1991 and worked across the capital from Westminster to Hackney and Hillingdon.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2010 and moved to Croydon in 2015, where he worked in custody.

Commissioner Dick added: “He was very well known locally. And he will be remembered so fondly in Croydon and missed there, as well as in the Met and the rugby world.”

His colleagues from his time in Hackney, east of the capital, described him as “the centrepiece of community policing”.

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A note on flowers outside Croydon custody centre

The local force tweeted: “For years this man, this hero, this skipper was the centrepiece of community policing in Hackney. He shaped the lives of many. Be that victims, suspects or colleagues.

“Sgt Ratana was the best. Gone, but most definitely not forgotten.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan were among the politicians to pay tribute to the policeman.

The PM said: “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.”

Lissie Harper, whose husband PC Andrew Harper, was killed while on duty in Berkshire last year, said of Sgt Ratana’s death: “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.”

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said in a statement: “This is utterly devastating and heartbreaking news that a colleague from the Metropolitan Police has been shot and killed.

“Policing is a family and when we lose one of our own in such a devastating way it affects us all.

“The dangers police officers face every day are very real and sadly, as we have seen, can result in officers making the ultimate sacrifice.”

His killing was described as “senseless” by Commissioner Dick, who said a murder investigation is underway, as well as a probe by the police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).