A police officer shot dead inside a south London custody suite by a handcuffed suspect armed with a revolver has been named as 54-year-old sergeant Matiu Ratana.

Known as Matt to his family and friends, 54-year-old Sgt Ratana, who was originally from New Zealand, joined the force in 1991.

He died in hospital after the 23-year-old gunman opened fire at Croydon Custody Centre in the early hours of Friday.

The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of Class B drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, also shot himself during the incident at about 2.15am and is in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Mr Ratana, a “talented” rugby player and coach, was “big in stature and big in heart”, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said on Friday.

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, earlier led police officers across the capital in a minute’s silence, described the officer as a “talented police officer”.

She told a press conference: “His colleagues knew him as a big guy. Big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man, respected by his colleagues.

“He was very well known locally and he will be remembered so fondly in Croydon and missed there, as well as in the Met.”

A murder probe has been launched and investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog are at the scene.

The suspect was arrested by regular officers following a stop and search, then handcuffed behind his back before being taken to the station in a police vehicle.

The IOPC said he was 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.

“A non-police issue firearm, which appears to be a revolver, has been recovered from the scene. Further ballistic work will be required.”

Forces across the country flew flags at half-mast as a mark of respect and tributes poured in for Sgt Ratana, who Dame Cressida Dick described as a “lovely, lovely, much-respected police officer”.

He was a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club and was described by a friend as “inspirational”, “larger than life” and a “machine”.

His friend, Paul, told Sky News: “He helped out at the club a lot. We lost funding and he came in and helped us.

“He was inspirational – so vibrant, so bubbly, larger than life. He will be a huge loss to the club.

“The man was a machine. He was at training last night from 7 to 9pm. That’s the last time I saw him. He was due to retire soon and was looking forward to it.”

Community police officer Jacqueline Kufuor burst into tears after laying flowers, describing Sgt Ratana as “a lovely guy” and “the nicest man I have ever met”.

She said: “You never expect this to happen when you go to work. For him to have been in custody and for this to have happened, it is just so sad.”

© 2020 Sky UK

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News – Croydon police officer Matiu Ratana shot dead in custody suite by handcuffed suspect