Tributes have poured in for Police Sergeant Matiu Ratana tragically killed after he was shot dead on duty at a Croydon custody centre in the early hours of Friday.
On Police Memorial Day those honouring the memory of the murderd officer included Prince Charles who described the senseless killing of Sergeant Ratana as “heartbreaking” and “dreadful”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Prime Minster of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern where the officer was born, all added their condolences.
Paying tribute to Sgt Ratana on Facebook, the New Zealand PM said his death was “very sad” adding: “To all Matiu’s whanau (extended family) across the world, we share your sorrow and have all our condolences.
The officer, was a grandson of Iriaka Ratana, the first Maori woman MP, and great-great grandson of Ratana Church founder Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana.
His family described him as ‘fearless’ and revealed he helped guard Princess Diana, the Queen Mother and a former Prime Minister.
The hugely popular and respected 54-year-old London police officer also once survived a nearby bombing by the IRA.
Metropolitan police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick who personally served alongside the officer said if some good could come out of this terrible incident it would be that more people understand a little bit about challenges police officers face and “see us as human beings” who go to work to “support and protect people” and that Matt was the “epitome” of that.
North Croydon MP Steve Reed who laid flowers at the custody centre in Windmill Road said: “Sgt Matt Ratana was well known in Selhurst, where he had been a neighbourhood police officer, as a big man with a big heart who really cared for the community. He will be sorely missed, such a very sad day.”
Croydon’s flag was lowered as a mark of respect to the police officer who lost his life in the line of duty.Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones who also visited the scene said: “Absolutely shocking news. I am speaking to the police on the details of this awful incident. My thoughts are with the family and colleagues of the officer killed.”
Community leader Donna Turner- Murray, Chair of Safer Neighbourhoods Board of Croydon, and founder of Another Night of Sisterhood which supports families, children and young people said: “Yesterday my friend died. I first met him in 2016.
“On the day my mother died he brought flowers to the house and sat and spoke, joked, ate with the whole family and held my hand while I cried.
“He fully supported Renee (Lord-Lindsay) and myself with our first ever set of Stop and Search community workshops educating parents and young people about their rights.
“He would jokingly argue with me that he was BAME because he was part Maori.
“He understood that narratives around policing and communities needed to change, in our last conversation he told me that he was proud of what I was trying to achieve.
“His death is a loss to humanity and to me personally. “
Streams of flowers from well wishers were delivered to the custody centre on Windmill Road where the officer was shot in the early hours of Friday.
Thornton Heath’s Safer Neighbourhood Team Sgt Andy Smith and PC Huw Davies who are based at Windmill Road collected floral tributes to their colleague (pictured).
Crystal Palace and Everton players also held a minute’s silence before their Premier League match at Selhurst Park in honour of Croydon police sergeant.
Sgt Ratana, known as Matt to family and friends, thought working in the custody suite was his “safest option” as he neared the end of his lengthy 30 year police career, friend Neil Donohue said.
Dame Cressida Dick said he was a long-serving and “much-loved” officer.
The commissioner, 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”.
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.
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.
Friend Neil Donohue told BBC Breakfast: “He thought it was his safest option just to see him through to his retirement and no-one expected this to happen – certainly not within the police cells.”
He described the officer as “the most nicest, generous man you could meet”, and said he was “just a really genuinely nice guy”.
His partner Sue Bushby’s sister told The Sun he was aware of the dangers of being a police officer but saw it as “all part of the job”.
Describing the news of his death as “devastating”, she told the newspaper: “He was dedicated to being a police officer and had almost 30 years of service.
“He knew the dangers of working in London but for him it was all part of the job.”
The officer has a son Luke, 26 who was was born during Matt’s marriage to ex-wife Teresa, from Perth, Australia.
Matt was also the head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, and chairman Bob Marsh and President Andy Poole paid an emotional tribute to him, as well as asking for time to comprehend what had happened.
He said: “Matt was an inspiring and much-loved figure at the club and there are truly no words to describe how we are feeling.
“Our deepest and sincerest condolences go to Matt’s loved ones, family, friends, colleagues and to our community rugby family at this most terrible time.”
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.