Prince William visits Croydon police station to pay tribute to Sgt Matt Ratana, shot dead

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The Duke of Cambridge meets staff and officers at Croydon Custody Centre  - Jonathan Buckmaster/Pool
The Duke of Cambridge meets staff and officers at Croydon Custody Centre - Jonathan Buckmaster/Pool

The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was shot dead at a custody centre in south London last year.

The Duke, 38, laid a wreath on a memorial bench at the Croydon police station after privately meeting the New Zealand-born custody sergeant’s partner, Su Bushby.

He also spoke to a number of Sgt Ratana’s colleagues and Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick before taking part in a moment of reflection alongside the officers.

The Duke said on arrival that he had wanted to visit the station “for a while” and was told by Dame Cressida: "It's going to mean a lot to people."

He was shown a gym that Sgt Ratana, 54, had built in a converted store room and which colleagues described as his "legacy".

They said he had proudly showed off the reflooring to colleagues on the night he died, September 25.

Sergeant Matt Ratana and his partner, Su Bushby - Metropolitan Police
Sergeant Matt Ratana and his partner, Su Bushby - Metropolitan Police

Colleague Sgt Steven Braithwaite said: "Prince William asked how we deal with death and I said we would usually get drunk and make morbid jokes, to get through it, but we haven't been able to do that because of lockdown and he said let me know when you do and he would join us one day."

Describing the moment he heard that Sgt Ratana had died, he added: "I felt numb. It was horrific. It's been really tough.

"Even now I'm still a bit numb and not got to grieve and still think he will come round the corner again and give one of his big bear hugs.

"The atmosphere was tough here for a while but it has got better slowly."

Inspector Wil Ajose-Adeogun, Sgt Ratana’s line manager, said afterwards: “Meeting the Duke today brought back many fond memories of Matt, his enormous energy, his sense of duty and his overwhelming kindness. He was not just our colleague, he was our dear friend.

“His personality was the life and sound of Croydon Custody Centre and we all miss him dearly.”

Dame Cressida said: “The awful killing of Sergeant Matt Ratana sent shockwaves through the Met and I know we continue to mourn his loss.

“Matt left a powerful legacy across the Met and I was proud to welcome His Royal Highness to Croydon Custody Centre and to meet some of Matt’s colleagues and friends.

“Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep people safe every day and they can be exposed to very harrowing and traumatic experiences. I am extremely proud of the men and women across the Met who support colleagues who have experienced trauma, breaking down the stigma of mental health and ensuring those who need help are supported.

“I am so pleased that His Royal Highness could meet those unsung heroes of the Met, looking out for the wellbeing of our officers.”

The Duke of Cambridge lays a wreath on a bench dedicated to Sergeant Matt Ratana at Croydon Custody Centre - Jonathan Buckmaster/Pool 
The Duke of Cambridge lays a wreath on a bench dedicated to Sergeant Matt Ratana at Croydon Custody Centre - Jonathan Buckmaster/Pool

Sgt Ratana worked for the Met for nearly 30 years, having joined in 1991, before being transferred to Croydon in 2015.

He was shot during a night shift at 2.15am. Officers and paramedics treated him at the scene but he died in hospital.

Louis De Zoysa, 23, from Norbury, south London, who had been arrested that night for a separate offence, was arrested on suspicion of murder but has been in hospital since the incident.

He was in a critical condition after receiving a gunshot wound but has now stabilised.

A spokeswoman for the Met Police said: "Officers continue to liaise with the relevant medical and legal teams regarding progressing the investigation.

" Specialist family liaison officers from the Met’s Specialist Crime Command are in regular contact with and supporting Matt's partner, his son and wider family."

The Duke also met a group of staff and officers to hear about work to improve their mental health.

He greeted the Met’s first welfare and wellbeing support dog, Dexter, who helps officers deal with traumatic incidents they come across in the line of duty.

Dexter was deployed during wellness meetings with around 20 officers after Sgt Ratana died.

The Duke said: "I love dogs. I understand he was too friendly and sociable to be a drugs dog."

He was told officers relax when with Dexter and that stroking the black labrador releases oxytocin, which fights the stress hormone.

The Duke said: "It's a way in. It's a change in mentality."