A man who concealed a loaded revolver and used it to kill a police sergeant in a south London custody centre has been found guilty of murder.
Louis De Zoysa, 25 (11.07.97), of no fixed address, was convicted of murdering Matt Ratana, a long-serving and popular police sergeant who had been a police officer for 29 years.
The Met has joined Matt’s family, friends and colleagues in welcoming the result in this awful case, which was investigated by the Met’s Specialist Crime Command.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said: “I first met Su – Matt’s partner – in my second week as Commissioner when I visited Croydon to pay my respects to Matt on the anniversary of his murder. I am inspired by the strength she showed then and even more so by the strength she has shown in recent weeks.
“I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this ordeal has been for her and for all of Matt’s family and friends. We will continue to offer them every possible support into the future.
“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.
“I have also seen the heavy impact that Matt’s murder had on his colleagues, those he worked with in Croydon and also the many officers and staff he had served alongside in his lengthy career.
“That impact is particularly felt by those who were present on the night he was murdered.
“This tragedy has caused me to reflect on the uncertain world within which police officers operate and the risks they face day by day.
“Officers never have a perfect picture of what awaits them at the next incident. Every day we take several firearms off the streets of London and the majority are seized by unarmed officers.
“The men and women in policing, daily stepping forward into uncertainty and risk, are truly remarkable.
“The officers and staff who were on duty on the night Matt was killed showed just those attributes. Without their courage I believe that more lives would have been lost.
“I am immensely proud of their professionalism and their bravery. They have my enduring admiration and my full support.”
Speaking after the case, Matt’s partner, Su Bushby, paid a moving tribute to him.
She said:“Today, Matt’s murderer has been found guilty of taking his life in a cruel and cowardly manner. The effects of which have left me, his family, colleagues and friends without the love and camaraderie he had with so many.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me, from my family and friends, the investigation team, the Crown Prosecution Service and Prosecution Counsel, and as a whole the Metropolitan Police, but today is about 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 not be forgotten.
“I again request that my right to privacy be respected. Thank you.”
In the early hours of 25 September 2020, De Zoysa was stopped for the purpose of a search by two uniformed police officers on vehicle patrol, whilst in London Road, Croydon.
De Zoysa directed the officers to an amount of cannabis contained in a large holdall he was carrying. He was placed in handcuffs and detained for a search, during which they subsequently found some rounds of ammunition in a pouch, which De Zoysa described as ‘militaria’ or ‘for show’.
He was arrested on suspicion of possession of ammunition and possession of Class B drugs with intent to supply.
Unbeknownst to anyone, De Zoysa was concealing an antique firearm in a holster under his armpit.
Due to the discovery of the ammunition and for their security, officers handcuffed De Zoysa with his hands behind his back. He was placed in a police van and taken to the one of the Met’s custody centres on Windmill Road in Croydon for a further search.
After arrival, Police Sergeant Matt Ratana checked De Zoysa’s temperature as part of Covid protocols in place at the time. He was then allowed to enter the custody suite.
De Zoysa was still handcuffed to the rear and was placed into a holding cell where officers remained with him. He was seated on a bench with his back to the wall. Sergeant Ratana authorised a further search of De Zoysa, including the use of a hand-held metal detector search wand.
The arresting officers were standing either side of De Zoysa with Sergeant Ratana directly in front of him. As the officers struggled to get him to respond to an instruction to stand up, De Zoysa produced a gun to the right-hand side of his body and fired two shots at close range towards Sergeant Ratana. Officers immediately tried to disarm De Zoysa as he fired a third shot. As they brought him to the floor, De Zoysa fired a fourth shot which entered his own neck.
Police officers, staff and paramedics attempted to save Sergeant Ratana’s life. Tragically, despite their best efforts and being rushed to hospital, his injuries proved fatal.
De Zoysa was given life-saving first aid, during which the hidden firearm holster was discovered, and he was subsequently taken to hospital.
De Zoysa had sustained serious injuries. On 13 November 2020, once he was well enough to understand, he was arrested on suspicion of murdering a police officer. On 29 June 2021, he was deemed well enough to be formally charged with murder. On 18 November 2022, a judge from the Central Criminal Court, sitting at Northampton Crown Court, found De Zoysa fit to plead.
The investigation found that De Zoysa legally purchased the gun he used, an antique Colt .41, 1895 double action revolver, under ‘obsolete calibre’ exemptions.
Following the murder, new government legislation was introduced banning this type of antique weapon.
It was established that De Zoysa had manufactured the ammunition used in the fatal shooting at home. No ammunition was readily available to buy for the 128-year-old-weapon.
The events surrounding the murder have been independently investigated by both the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The IOPC investigation into the search of De Zoyza found no indication any officer behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or that they had committed a criminal offence. They did identify some learning for two individual officers around body searching and transportation of detainees.
The IOPC has recommended to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) that they consider the implementation of handheld metal detectors in all police response vehicles and vehicles used to transport detained persons.
At the time of the murder, hand-held metal detector wands were already in use in Met custody centres. Within weeks of the murder, the Met began a roll-out of hand-held search wands to vehicles used to transport suspects. Now 4,300 wands have been issued for use across the Met for front line officers in custody, vehicles and a pool of devices has been allocated for officers in vehicles and on foot/cycle patrol.
Officer and staff safety is always a priority for the Met and safety procedures, training and equipment are constantly kept under review. The Met has further improved its Public and Personal Safety Training (PPST). Training places a significant emphasis on scenarios and practical skills that officers can immediately implement. From February 2022, the use of search wands was incorporated into training, which focuses on their practical use as well enhanced searching of persons and vehicles.
Notes to editors:
Information on PS Matiu ‘Matt’ Ratana:
Originally from Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand, Matt went to the UK in 1989 while in his early 20s. He joined the London Metropolitan Police two years later (29 years of service).
His full name was Matthew Stewart Rennie Ratana, known as ‘Matt’, he was aged 54 at the time of his death (03/05/66).
He served in various parts of London, with his last posting as a custody sergeant in Croydon.
The father of one, whose adult son is also a police officer, was only months off the age for retirement.
In 1992, he was just 300m from an IRA bomb that exploded outside the British Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing St.
During his many years of police service he returned to his home country and between 2003 and 2008, spent five years in the New Zealand police force.
Outside of work, Matt enjoyed sports activity, especially rugby and motorcycling. In recent years he enjoyed an annual foreign motor biking trip with a group of police friends, who have since raised thousands of pounds for charity in his memory with activities in his name. www.ratanaride.com.
Matt previously won the national men’s doubles title when he competed for the Met at the former Police Athletic Association (now Police Sport UK) championships in 2000. During that period Matt also played for the British Police Tennis Section in a number of matches. Following the tragedy, Police Sport UK decided to rename the cup Matt won the ‘Matt Ratana Trophy’ in his honour. This was awarded for the first time in 2021.
Matt had also led rugby teams in Worthing and was a highly respected coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, where the club has remembered him with a statue.
On 21 December, 2020, the BBC awarded Sgt Ratana the unsung hero Sports Personality of the Year for his commitment to rugby coaching.