Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana fought for two hours before dying from a gunshot wound to the chest after being fired upon ‘several times’ by a suspect in handcuffs inside a police station, a coroner was told today.
The 54-year-old was shot as he was preparing to search a handcuffed suspect who had managed to smuggle a revolver into the custody suite in Croydon, south London on September 25.
Sgt Ratana was taken to hospital after the shooting at 2.15am last Friday but wasn’t pronounced dead until 4.20am.
Police are yet to speak to the alleged gunman, widely named as Louis De Zoysa, 23, who is in a critical condition in hospital after he shot himself as he opened fire. He was not named at the inquest hearing.
Detective Superintendent Nick Blackburn said the weapon was discharged ‘several times’.
Sgt. Ratana receiving a long and good service medal from the Commissioner Cressida Dick on May 31 2017. The 54-year-old was shot as he was preparing to search a handcuffed suspect who had managed to smuggle a revolver into the custody suite
Media are seen outside Croydon coroner’s court ahead of the opening of the inquest in to the death of Sergeant Matiu Ratana on October 1 in Croydon
A revolver was later recovered from the scene.
He told the inquest the suspect was first detained by police in Pollards Hill in south London at 1.30am.
The suspect was handcuffed and taken into custody on suspicion of the possession of ammunition and a class B drug.
He said: ‘Upon arrival (at Croydon custody centre), he (the suspect) was taken to a holding room where he remained in handcuffs.
‘The custody sergeant, Matt Ratana, entered the holding room.
‘The suspect discharged the weapon several times, during which the sergeant and the suspect were injured.’
Police officers are seen outside Croydon coroner’s court ahead of the opening of the inquest in to the death of Sergeant Matiu Ratana. The suspect was handcuffed and taken into custody on suspicion of the possession of ammunition and a class B drug
The inquest heard Mr Ratana was taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting but he was pronounced dead at 4.20am.
Mr Blackman said the preliminary cause of death given following the post-mortem examination was a gunshot wound to the chest.
No members of Mr Ratana’s family, including his partner Su Bushby, were present for the hearing. Mr Ratana’s son in Australia wanted to listen in remotely but the technology failed.
Sarah Ormond-Walshe, senior coroner for south London, adjourned the hearing until a further date.
The Metropolitan Police officer of almost 30 years has been described as someone who epitomised the role police play in protecting others and, as head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, was said to be an ‘irreplaceable figure’.
Sergeant Matt Ratana was shot dead in a London police station by a handcuffed suspect
Sue Bushby, Mr Ratana’s partner, paid tribute to her ‘friend, confidant, support and soul mate’ in a statement released last month.
She said: ‘There aren’t really any words for how I am feeling right now about the loss of Matt; about losing someone I loved, and was so close to, in such a tragic manner.
‘I know Matt touched many, many people’s lives with his friendliness, patience, kindness, enthusiasm and caring ways.
‘I had the pleasure of sharing five years of my life with this lovely man – my gentle giant, with his infectious smile and big heart. I think of him with tenderness and love.’
Today Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick hosted New Zealand High Commissioner to London Bede Corry in an emotional visit to lay a wreath at the scene in memory of the police officer and countryman.
Police said on Tuesday that investigators have been unable to speak to De Zoysa who remains in hospital in a critical condition.
Officers have been searching several areas including derelict buildings and 30 acres of land in Banstead, Surrey, and an address believed to be the suspect’s family home in Norbury, southwest London.
Specialist detectives are leading the inquiry which police say is not a counter terrorism investigation.
Dame Cressida, Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan attend the National Police Memorial in London shortly after Ratana’s death
A second person was arrested on suspicion of supplying a firearm and bailed pending further enquiries to a date in late October.
In a statement released on Tuesday, DAC Stuart Cundy said: ‘The murder of Sgt Ratana sent shockwaves through the Metropolitan Police Service. Nevertheless his colleagues are determined to find justice for him and his family.’
He is the eighth officer to be shot dead in Britain over the last 20-years.
How a suspect managed to smuggle in a firearm is now the focus for an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The IOPC has obtained CCTV footage from the custody centre and body-worn camera footage from the officers who were present during the shooting.
The man accused of shooting him was referred to the government’s Prevent programme, aimed at stopping people joining extremist groups and carrying out terrorist activities.
However, police have stressed that the investigation into Sgt Ratana’s death is currently a murder probe and not a counter-terrorism one.
De Zoysa was described as a ‘maths geek’ who was ‘good with weapons’ and ‘could have gone to Oxbridge’ by former friends writing in a yearbook for the John Fisher School, a 1000 pupil Roman Catholic boy’s comprehensive in Purley, South London.
He attended the school between 2008 and 2015.
Police are continuing to sift through the end-terrace home in Norbury he is believed to have lived in with his mother Elizabeth, a translator who ran as a Green candidate in local elections, and his Sri Lankan father Channa, a former yoga teacher said to be passionate about recycling who repairs bicycles for free.
The Catholic couple, who run an events company, have five children and neighbours said police were often seen at the address.
The family home is one of two sites being investigated. The other is a farm in Banstead, Surrey.
The 56-acre Courtlands Farm was an ammunitions dump in the Second World War which has a number of outbuildings as well as a farmhouse and adjoining bungalow.
A second suspect arrested in Norwich in Norfolk on Sunday on suspicion of supplying a firearm has been granted bail pending further enquiries.
He had been taken to a South London police station for questioning and has been bailed to a date later this month.