Matiu Ratana's rugby club pay tribute to 'irreplaceable' officer who was a 'role model to many'

Sergeant Matiu Ratana has been described as 'truly remarkable'. Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Members of shot police sergeant Matiu Ratana's rugby club have held two silences and paid tribute to their "irreplaceable" head coach who they called a "role model to many".

Multiple tributes were laid outside East Grinstead Rugby Club's (EGRFC) clubhouse and two periods of silence – for junior and senior club members – were held on Sunday morning, in memory of the Metropolitan Police officer who was shot by a handcuffed suspect in a custody suite.The club flag was flown alongside Mr Ratana's native New Zealand flag and the All Blacks rugby team flag.

Matiu Ratana was shot dead in Croydon in the early hours of Friday. Credit: PA

Matt Marriott, Vice Chairman of East Grinstead Rugby Club, told ITV News he will not be forgotten.

"Talking to the players and the coaching staff, they are determined to carry on his legacy and to carry on in the same way that he wanted to and to drive success," he said.

"And I’m sure we will see that - but nothing will replace him with his big sub-suit walking up and down the touchline, that’s for sure ."

Flowers are left to pay their respects to police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana. Credit: PA

Pc Sarah D’Silva, who plays as a winger for the club’s women’s team, laid a signed Metropolitan Police jacket alongside the other tributes and received applause from players and other club members.

ITV News Reporter Jessica Savage reports from EGRFC where she says team members said they would never forget Mr Ratana

Speaking to the PA news agency, Pc D’Silva, 26, who also works at Croydon police station, said that coming down to the club for the memorial silence was especially “poignant” for her.

“He was an absolutely fantastic character, full of life with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen and a fantastic mentor on the rugby field and for the police as well,” she said.

“Any question was never too much for Matt and it’s deeply saddening to know from such a deeply tragic event has resulted in the loss of Matt’s life.

“I can’t put into words how shocked I am and also the colleagues that are beside me in the blue line family. It’s a completely tragic event.”

It comes as commemorations take place across the UK for National Police Memorial Day.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said she hoped the “terrible” death of Sgt Ratana might give people an insight into the dangers and risks officers face.

Dame Cressida Dick laid a wreath to mark National Police Memorial Day. Credit: PA

She said: “If some good can come out of this terrible incident in which we have had one of our officers murdered it would be that more people can understand a little bit about the challenges of police work and to see us police as who we are – human beings, going to work to help people, to support people and to protect people.

“Matt was the epitome of that.”

Describing him as an “extraordinary person”, she added: “He had a wonderful personality and he was very good at his job.”

Later on Sunday, the Prince of Wales will lead tributes to fallen police officers for National Police Memorial Day (NPMD), honouring those who have lost their lives on duty.

The suspect in the killing at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of Friday remains in a critical condition in hospital.

The 23-year-old, who also shot himself, had still not been spoken to by officers on Saturday evening due to his condition.

The Met said a man had been arrested in Norwich in the early hours of Sunday on suspicion of supplying a firearm.

Sgt Ratana, 54, was originally from New Zealand and joined the Met in 1991. He leaves behind a partner and a grown-up son.

Other tributes have come from New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Sgt Ratana’s cousin Adrian Rurawhe, who is an MP in his home country.

Mr Rurawhe told Times Radio: “He had a really big personality. You couldn’t help but gravitate towards him. He was very engaging and had natural-born leadership skills.”

Sgt Matiu Ratana, known as Matt, who died after being shot at a police station in Croydon Credit: Met Police/PA

Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Stuart Cundy said Sgt Ratana’s death had marked a “dark and sad day for the police family”.

He added: “Everyone working on this investigation, from the forensic specialists to the local officers holding the cordons, does so with a heavy heart but a determination to find justice for our colleague and his family.”

He said police are “painstakingly” searching four crime scenes in connection with the killing, including the custody suite where the incident unfolded at about 2.15am on Friday.

Forensic searches are also being carried out in an area of London Road, Pollards Hill, Norbury, where the suspect was initially arrested by officers for possession of ammunition and possession of class B drugs.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which attended the scene after the shooting, said the suspect had been taken into the building and sat in a holding area in the custody suite, then opened fire while still in handcuffs as officers prepared to search him with a metal detector.

He had earlier been arrested by regular officers following a stop and search, then handcuffed behind his back before being taken to the station in a police vehicle.

No police firearms were fired in the incident, and the case is not being treated as terror-related.

Deputy assistant commissioner Cundy said a gun had been recovered from where the shooting happened, and that CCTV and police body-worn footage is being reviewed and will be considered alongside accounts from officers.

Sgt Ratana is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the last 20 years and the first to be murdered by a firearm in the line of duty since Pcs Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, in September 2012.