Two separate inquiries have been launched into the murder of a police officer in his own station.
Sergeant Matiu Ratana died in hospital after being shot while preparing to search a suspect at a police station in Croydon, London, on Friday.
A Metropolitan Police investigation will focus on the suspect’s background and the motive for the killing of Sgt Ratana, known as Matt.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), meanwhile, will assess how the shooting was allowed to happen and how the man was apparently able to smuggle the weapon into Croydon custody centre.
He allegedly shot the officer five times in the chest while his hands were cuffed behind his back before turning the gun on himself.
Tributes were paid yesterday to Sgt Ratana, 54, whose maternal family were Scottish. The officer, originally from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, joined the Met after moving to London in his early 20s. He died after the suspect managed to fire a weapon at him five times. The shots were fired as officers prepared to search the still-handcuffed man.
The 23-year-old, believed to be originally from Sri Lanka, had been arrested over possessing ammunition and class B drugs. He was himself critically injured in the shooting incident and remains in hospital.
He had been arrested by 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 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.”
The suspect shot himself during the incident at about 2.15am. No police firearms were fired and the case is not being treated as terror-related. The IOPC has obtained CCTV images from the custody centre as well as body-worn video footage from officers present.
A cordon remained in place around the Anderson Heights building in Norbury, south-west London. A concierge said the suspect did not live in the block but was arrested outside it.
Leroy Logan, a former Met superintendent, said questions required to be answered, including: “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?”
Sgt Ratana, a keen rugby player and coach, was just two months away from retirement after 30 years’ service with the Met.
Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick described him as a “talented police officer” who was “big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man and highly respected by his colleagues”.
Dame Cressida and London Mayor Sadiq Khan led police officers across London in a minute’s silence on Friday. Sgt Ratana is survived by his partner Sue and an adult son.
His partner’s sister, Amanda Tessier, said: “He was dedicated to being a police officer. He knew the dangers of working in London but for him it was all part of the job.”
His friend Neil Donohue said of the role as custody sergeant: “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 was the nicest, most generous man you could meet.”
Sgt Ratana’s cousin Adrian Rurawhe, a politician in New Zealand, said: “We’re all devastated we’ve lost our cousin, but also to hear about the way he has been killed. He was awesome, very outgoing and a natural-born leader. Some people have to learn how to be a leader but it just came naturally to him.”
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 PCs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, in 2012.
Murder suspect was known to counter-terrorist police
The suspect in the murder of Sergeant Matt Ratana was known to counter-terrorism police and checks into his background will form part of the police inquiry into the fatal shooting.
The suspect, who is aged 23 and believed to come originally from Sri Lanka, had been referred to part of the Government’s Prevent programme, which is aimed at stopping people joining extremist groups and being drawn into potential terrorism.
It’s understood he was not regarded an official person of interest by security services but had previously been known to a section of Prevent, known as Channel, which tries to stop people becoming radicalised.
Sources said the suspect had been flagged over concerns about right-wing and Islamist indoctrination but nothing of concern was found. Despite this, the fatal shooting of Sgt Ratan is not being treated as terrorism-related, police have said.
Mental health is also a consideration in the inquiry, with the suspect understood to have a learning disability.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe