Croydon suspect 'in handcuffs' when police sergeant shot dead

25 September 2020, 22:56 | Updated: 26 September 2020, 06:44

Tributes have been paid to Police Sergeant Matt Ratana
Tributes have been paid to Police Sergeant Matt Ratana. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Questions are being raised about how a suspect who shot Police Sergeant Matt Ratana did so while in handcuffs.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) revealed the 23-year-old suspect, arrested for possession of Class B drugs and possession of ammunition, was handcuffed to the rear while officers prepared to search him using a metal detector at Croydon Custody Centre.

Shots were then fired, leaving the police officer dead and the suspect in critical condition in hospital with a gunshot wound.

A murder investigation is underway, but initial enquiries have suggested he turned the gun on himself during the incident shortly after 2am on Friday morning.

The revelation has prompted questions over how the suspect was able to conceal the weapon and then access it while in handcuffs.

Read more: 'Long-serving' sergeant shot dead at Croydon police station

Questioned about the finding, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick told reporters: "Officers deal with arresting people on the street hundreds of times a day.

"They assess the information, they assess the risk, they're very highly trained and we give our officer a great deal of safety training.

"They make their decisions according to what is presented to them, but I'm not going to discuss or speculate about what may of happened after he was arrested."

Reflecting on the events, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rod Jarman told LBC he was sure there would have been "some sort of search" but "some guns are surprisingly small and some people are able to conceal things within their body extremely well."

"It is not unusual for things to be found in a custody suite in a search that you would've expected to be found on the street," he said.

Tributes poured in to Sgt Ratana - known to his family and friends as Matt - after died in the early hours of the morning after being shot inside Croydon Custody Centre.

He had moved to the UK in 1989 and served in the Met for almost 30 years, having joined the force in 1991.

Read more: Police chiefs pay tribute after officer shot dead

He was the captain of his recruit training class, before being posted to Charing Cross where he worked as a constable on the streets of the West End and Westminster in various roles.

Paying tribute to the officer, Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, told LBC he was known as a "big guy" with a "big heart", who leaves behind a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

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."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, in an interview with LBC after the incident, said he was talking with the Met to discuss how to improve safety in custody and that it was right there was an investigation into the incident.

"The IOPC is looking into this matter for obvious reasons - because this did occur in a custody suite in a police station.

"That's important as well - that lessons are learnt and there's a proper investigation."

Mr Khan urged the public to "smile and thank" officers across the country as he explained how the police force is "like a family".

"That little thing can make such a different to officers today who are feeling vulnerable and heartbroken," he said.

Read more: Croydon shooting: Former police chief explains "gun could've been missed in search"

Paying tribute to the police officer, the Croydon branch of the Met Police tweeted: “Today we lost an honourable, brave and dedicated family member.

"Our hearts are with the officers immediate family at this time following this devastating loss.”