Handcuffed man, 25, guilty of murdering Met Police sergeant Matt Ratana with revolver in London police station

23 June 2023, 14:50 | Updated: 23 June 2023, 16:00

Sgt Ratana was killed in the custody centre
Sgt Ratana was killed in the custody centre. Picture: Alamy/Met Police

By Will Taylor

A man has been found guilty of shooting dead Met officer Sergeant Matt Ratana at a South London police station.

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Louis De Zoysa was found guilty of killing the New Zealand-born cop in the chest, having reached for a gun despite being handcuffed before he was searched.

The 25-year-old former tax office data analyst, from Banstead, Surrey, had denied murder.

He claimed diminished responsibility, with his defence lawyer arguing he had an autistic meltdown, but a jury decided he intentionally pulled the .41 calibre revolver's trigger. They took just over five hours to reach their verdict.

Sgt Ratana's partner, Su Bushby, and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley were in the public gallery when the verdict came in.

CCTV from the custody block at Croydon's Windmill Road custody centre showed him sitting while Sgt Ratana, 54, explained he was about to be searched, having earlier been handcuffed by two officers while walking in Norbury early on September 25 2020.

He then reached to his back and pulled out the gun, hitting Sgt Ratana in the chest in one of three shots fired within as many seconds.

CCTV of Matt Ratana released

De Zoysa also hit the officer in his thigh, the fired a third that hit a cell wall as he was wrestled to the ground by other officers.

He fired a fourth shot as he was on the floor seconds later, which hit his neck and cut an artery, which caused brain damage.

He uses a wheelchair now, has communication difficulties and is being treated at a care unit in Northamptonshire.

During his arrest, officers found seven bullets and cannabis.

Read more: Horrifying CCTV shows moment police officer Matt Ratana shot in custody cell by handcuffed man hiding gun behind back

Sgt Ratana was murdered in 2020
Sgt Ratana was murdered in 2020. Picture: Alamy
De Zoysa has been found guilty
De Zoysa has been found guilty. Picture: Metropolitan Police

But the officers, who handcuffed him and took him to the custody centre, did not find the revolver which was loaded with six rounds.

Prosecutors told jurors he had a holster under his left arm, which he managed to take the revolver from while in the police van they put him in.

It is believed he took the gun into his right hand about 15 minutes before he shot Sgt Ratana and then put it in a slot of his overcoat to hide it.

When Sgt Ratana spoke to him, he stood up, aimed the revolver at the officer and opened fire.

Read more: People smuggler admits manslaughter of 39 Vietnamese migrants found dead in lorry in Essex

De Zoysa opened fire with a revolver
De Zoysa opened fire with a revolver. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Prosecutor Duncan Penny told Northampton Crown Court that claims of an autistic meltdown were tentative.

"Louis De Zoysa had purchased that weapon and he had manufactured ammunition to allow the antique firearm to work as a deadly weapon," he said.

"He was asked direct questions which meant he could have told them (police) about the bullets and the gun. He did not do so.

"In the police van Louis De Zoysa took steps to arm himself with the gun - he held the gun in his hand and then under the vent of his coat.

De Zoysa argued he suffered an autistic meltdown
De Zoysa argued he suffered an autistic meltdown. Picture: Alamy

"On the way into the police station Louis De Zoysa was still holding the gun and still hiding it under the vent of his coat.

"You might think the only purpose of that holster was to allow easy access to a weapon being carried in a concealed manner.

"Whilst he was in the van and during the journey he made the decision to seek to try and take hold of the lethal weapon.

"We suggest, in all likelihood, he had hold of the gun within a few minutes of being placed in the van."

After the verdict, Mr Penny said more firearms and ammunition charges against De Zoysa will lie on file.

Speaking outside the court, Ms Bushby said: "Today is about the justice for Matt.

"His life was taken too soon, in the line of duty, doing a job that he loved. A cruel end to a lifetime of service and dedication, protecting others.

"Whilst the court case has concluded, the constant feeling of grief and loss continues. My love for Matt, my gentle giant, will never end.

"He will never be forgotten."

Sir Mark said he had seen the "heavy impact" the killing had on Sgt Ratana's colleagues, and he believed without the courage shown by the other officers on duty that night "more lives would have been lost".

He said: "Matt dedicated almost 30 years to policing and was nearing retirement when he was tragically murdered. He was an outstanding officer who brought joy to his work, treating everyone with respect, compassion and good humour.

"In the days after his death, tributes flowed in from Matt’s colleagues, from communities he had served and from those who knew him in his life outside policing. They were a testament to the man he was.

"Whether it was on the street or in a custody centre as a uniformed police officer, or on the rugby field as a player and later a coach, it is clear he was someone who made an enduring impact wherever he went. We will ensure that he is never forgotten."

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has called for handheld search wands to be introduced routinely into policing in England and Wales.

The IOPC has issued a recommendation to the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) to bring in handheld metal detectors and make them standard kit in all police response vehicles and vehicles used to transport prisoners.

The NPCC said it is exploring the implementation of the plan.

The IOPC said it had identified six other incidents in England and Wales where detained people harmed themselves in custody using hidden metallic items despite being searched by police.

The metal detecting wands will not replace traditional hand searches, the IOPC said.

Within weeks of Matt Ratana's murder the Met began the rollout of the wands and now has 4,300 of them deployed across the force.

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