THESE are the tragic first pictures of the police officer shot dead by a handcuffed suspect at a South London police station today.
Sergeant Matt Ratana, 54, was hailed by Met Commissioner Cressida Dick tonight as a "big guy with a big heart" who had served the Force for 29 years.
⚠️ Follow the latest updates on the Croydon shooting here
The dad died in hospital after being gunned down by a handcuffed inmate at Croydon custody centre at around 2.15am this morning.
The 23-year-old suspect, who is believed to have been known to counter-terror cops, is fighting for his life in hospital after shooting himself in the head inside the station.
It is believed that special constables failed to find the gun when the man was arrested on suspicion of possessing ammunition in South London minutes before the attack.
The suspect is then said to have pulled the revolver from his trousers and fired at Sgt Ratana as he was about to undergo a Covid temperature check inside the station.
Desperate colleagues battled to save the custody sergeant's life before he was rushed to hospital, where he died shortly after arrival.
Sgt Ratana, from Sussex, had served with the Met Police for 28 years after moving to the UK from his native New Zealand and also worked as a rugby coach.
'SUCH A LOVELY GUY'
His partner of four years Sue Busby was said to be devastated tonight and was being comforted by friends.
Her sister Amanda Tessier, a community nurse, told The Sun: “He was a great big friendly bear of a man, one of the loveliest men you could meet.
“He was absolutely dedicated to being a police officer and had almost 30 years of service.
“He knew the dangers of being a police officer in London and he had spoken about them but for him it was all part of the job.
"It was something he was trained in and used to.
“He was such a lovely guy. He was a big friendly guy.
"He liked to keep fit and loved his rugby but he also liked a burger or two."
She added: "We simply can’t believe it. How did someone have a gun in the police station?
“I’m sure there is going to be a huge investigation by the Met but it doesn’t seem right at all.”
Mrs Tessier said her sister was left devastated by the news.
She said: “They had been together for about four years. She got a knock on the door in the morning. It’s just devastating.
"We can’t believe it. He was the life and soul, a real fun-loving guy who was totally committed to doing his job.”
He was the life and soul, a real fun-loving guy who was totally committed to doing his job
Amanda said that Matiu, known as Matt, was also a passionate rugby fan who coached players at Hove Rugby and also East Grinstead.
Breaking down in tears, Amanda continued: “They’ll be devastated by this. He coached the juniors as well.
“It’s just awful.”
His former girlfriend Claudia Lynn, who lived with the officer for six years, said he had come over from New Zealand and forged a career in the police.
Claudia, who is a former special constable, said they split up four years ago after meeting in 2010.
She said: “We moved down here together from London where we were living at the time.
"I wasn’t in touch with him anymore but I had seen him around on the odd occasion.”
Sgt Ratana is the tenth officer to have been killed in the line of duty in the past decade, and the first since PC Andrew Harper was killed by thieves while responding to a burglary in Berkshire in August last year.
In an emotional Facebook post, PC Harper's widow Lissie Harper said the killing was "utterly devastating", adding: "What is happening to our world?"
Met officer Stuart James, who raced to help his colleague as he battled for life, described the horror scenes as fellow officers fought to save his life.
He wrote on Twitter: "This morning my team and I responded to the worst possible radio transmission from custody, words and scenes I shall never forget.
"The unimaginable happened to our police family. We have lost not only a good skipper but also a real gentleman. One of the best. RIP brother."
Ch Insp Jack Rowlands wrote: "Hard to put into words. All I can say is I lost a friend today and know very many more friends did everything they could. I'm thinking of everyone affected."
Community police officer Jacqueline Kufuor burst into tears after laying flowers outside the centre in tribute to her colleague.
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.
"He was a very lovely man. He was such a nice man. When he sees you, he would just stand and talk to you.
"He would ask you about your job and how your are coping and how you are doing out there."
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick tonight said Sgt Ratanawas known as a "big guy" with a "big heart".
She said: "A lovely man, respected by his colleagues, officers, staff and of course by members of the public, including, I may say, suspects arrested or dealt with in custody.
"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 in the rugby world."
Dame Cressida confirned that he leaves behind a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct will investigate the shocking circumstances of the officer's death.
They said the suspect in the fatal shooting was in handcuffs when shots were fired in the Croydon custody centre.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: "What we have established is that the man was arrested for possession of class B drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition.
"The man was handcuffed to the rear before being transported to Croydon Custody Suite in a police vehicle where he was escorted into the building.
"He remained handcuffed to the rear and seated in a holding area in the custody suite.
"His handcuffs remained in place while officers prepared to search him using a metal detector.
"It is at the 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."
Questions will be asked on how the gun was apparently missed when the suspect was initially searched, after being seen acting suspiciously in Croydon town centre.
It is understood he was being booked in for possession of ammunition.
Sgt Ratana's colleagues wrote an emotional tribute to him this morning, saying: "Today we lost an honourable, brave and dedicated family member."
A number of serving and former police officers changed their social media profile pictures to black, with a blue line, today as a mark of respect.
A flag outside Croydon police station was also lowered to half mast as forensics officers combed the scene.
Asked about how someone could enter the building while armed, former Det Ch Insp Chris Phillips said: "I think police officers are probably less likely to search people now with all the furore that goes on.
"When people get arrested there is a general view that they should be searched before being transported to the police station but that doesn't always happen – and it depends on what the man was arrested for in the first place.
"This goes down the line about handcuffing – do you handcuff? When do the handcuffs get taken off for protection etc?"
Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “This is a truly shocking incident in which one of our colleagues has lost his life in the most tragic circumstances.
"My heart goes out to his family, direct colleagues and friends.
“We are currently supporting his family and also have a dedicated team providing support to the officers and those in the custody centre who witnessed the shooting.
"When a colleague dies in the line of duty the shockwaves and sadness reverberates throughout the Met and our communities. Policing is a family, within London and nationally, and we will all deeply mourn our colleague."
This morning forensics could be seen searching in the yard of the custody suite as fellow officers arrived at the scene.
Officers killed in the line of duty since 2000
Detective Constable Stephen Oake died during a police raid on a flat in Crumpsall, Manchester, in January 2003.
Pc Ian Broadhurst, 34, of West Yorkshire Police, was murdered by David Bieber, 38, in Leeds on Boxing Day 2003.
Detective Constable Michael Swindells, 44, died after he was knifed in the stomach as he and colleagues conducted a search in Birmingham in May 2004.
Pc Sharon Beshenivsky was shot dead when she and a colleague tried to stop armed robbers in Bradford in November 2005.
Pc Ricky Gray was shot in the head by a gunman who then turned the weapon on himself in Shrewsbury in 2007.
Pc Gary Toms, 37, was critically injured confronting suspects in Leyton, east London, on April 11 2009. He died six days later when his life support machine was switched off, 25 years to the day after Pc Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead outside the Libyan embassy in London while controlling a crowd of demonstrators.
Pc Fiona Bone, 32, and Pc Nicola Hughes, 23, were murdered by Dale Cregan in Greater Manchester in September 2012.
Pc Keith Palmer, who was fatally stabbed in March 2017 by Khalid Masood during the Westminster Bridge terror attack.
Pc Andrew Harper 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.
Shocked locals told The Sun of their horror at the scene this morning as a murder investigation got underway.
Daniel Michaels said he has been held in the custody suite and was searched throughly – including strip searches.
The 19-year-old former student said it was “unbelievable” and “outrageous” the gun was not found.
He said: "I can’t believe this. I was arrested and taken in there and searched numerous times and the security is very tight. This is unbelievable.
"You get searched every step of the way. You get searched before you get in the car, after and when you arrive and then when you get into the suite. How an earth has this happened? It’s madness.
"It seems impossible this could happen. It’s so strict. Something has gone badly wrong for this to happen."
Lisa Verrilli, a local cafe worker, said she saw the hero cop several times a week when he would visit for lunch.
The 39-year-old described him as a 'proud dad' and 'devoted family man'.
She said: "He was only in here two days ago – it’s absolutely heartbreaking. My heart goes out to his family.
"He was a true gent. He was a very proud dad and a devoted family man.
"He’d been in the force for a long time. Despite a demanding job he was always in a good mood. He was happy and cheerful."
A player from the rugby club where the tragic officer coached said he had come straight to his final shift from a training session last night.
He said:"He was so vibrant, so bubbly. Larger than life. He was just a great character.
"His wife is lovely. It's a huge loss. If you had a problem you could go and speak to him. He would find a way to help.
"The man was a machine. He was at training last night.
"He used to train with us then he would come to do shift work here in Croydon.
"He would do that week in week out. We start training at 7pm. He would have left at 9, 9.30pm I guess."
Colleagues pay tribute outside station
Just before 2pm a dozen uniformed police officers walked silently to the custody centre, laid two large bouquets and bowed their heads as they stood side-by-side in tribute to their colleague.
They left a minute later without saying a word. A poem pinned to one of the bouquets read:
Time to come home dear brother
Your tour of duty through
You have given as much as anyone could be expected to do
Just a few steps further the smoke will start to clear
Others here will guide you
You have no need of fear
You have not failed your brothers
You clearly gave it all
And through your selfless actions
Others will hear the call
Secure your place of honour
Among those who have gone before
And know you will be remembered
For now and evermore.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted saying: "My deepest condolences go to the family, friends and colleagues of the police officer who was killed in Croydon last night."
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “I am deeply shocked and saddened to learn that a Metropolitan Police Officer has been shot and killed in the line of duty.
“My thoughts today are with his family, friends and policing colleagues in London and across the country."
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