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THE heartbroken partner of a cop gunned down and killed in Croydon has paid tribute to her “gentle giant”.
Sergeant Matt Ratana, 54, was allegedly blasted with a smuggled revolver by a suspect being held in the custody suite.
His partner of six years Su Bushby has today paid tribute to the hero cop, who had been planning to propose before the horror on Friday.
She said: “There aren’t really any words for how I am feeling right now about the loss of Matt; about losing someone I loved and was so close to in such a tragic manner.
“I know Matt touched many, many people’s lives with his friendliness, patience, kindness, enthusiasm and caring ways.
“I had the pleasure of sharing five years of my life with this lovely man – my gentle giant, with his infectious smile and big heart. I think of him with tenderness and love.
“He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Matt will always be in my head and in my heart.”
Sgt Matt had confided to pals he was about to pop the question to Su, 44, after “six wonderful years”.
The veteran officer, who was due to retire to spend more time with Su, had been a tower of strength for his partner after her dad Roy died earlier this year, her mum Penelope said.
Fighting back tears, Mrs Bushby, 81, added: “He was a very lovely man. He loved my daughter and she loved him back.
“He recently called round with something for my TV and was his usual smiling self. It is difficult to accept that we will never see him again.”
Louis De Zoysa has been named as the shooting suspect and is fighting for life in hospital after blasting himself in the neck.
Police are still probing how the suspect allegedly concealed a revolver in his pants after his stop-and-search arrest for possession of Class B drugs and ammunition.
Questions have also been raised over how he allegedly managed to pepper Croydon Police Station with bullets while his hands were cuffed behind his back.
The home in Norbury he shares with dad Channa, mum Elizabeth and his four siblings is being searched by murder cops.
A man was arrested in a dramatic dawn raid in Norwich yesterday in relation to the supply of the firearm that killed Sgt Ratana.
Sgt Ratana was the first ever officer to be killed inside a British police station when the suspect fired five shots from the hidden weapon.
Counter-terrorist cops have confirmed they were not involved in inquiries, despite the suspect being flagged to the Home Office Prevent de-radicalisation programme two years ago.
Bosses took no action over claims that he held both extreme Islamist and right-wing views after he was assessed to pose no threat.
De Zoysa was described by pals as a “maths geek” who was “good with weapons” in his Year 11 school yearbook.
The suspect had been detained in an area of London Road, Pollards Hill for possession of ammunition and possession of class B drugs.
He was taken to the custody centre in Windmill Lane where he remained handcuffed until a door was opened for him to be searched with a metal detector.
But as the sergeant prepared to take his temperature under Covid rules, the suspect shot him at “point-blank” range, a source said.
The gunman blazed off more shots, five in all, in a fierce struggle in the corridor at 2.15am.
Colleagues battled to save stricken Sgt Ratana’s life with medics performing open heart surgery at the custody centre.
But sadly the officer couldn’t be saved and he was later declared dead at the hospital.
Tragically, Sgt Ratana was just months from retirement and had moved to work in custody as it was safer.
The officer had served with the Met Police since 1991 and worked in Croydon from 2015.
He had told colleagues he intended to quit as early as next year, and posted of his excitement at the prospect of “a long healthy life”.
Pals said Sgt Ratana, dad to a grown-up son, 26, dreamed of travelling Europe on his motorbike then coaching at his rugby club in Sussex.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick on Friday night said Sgt Ratana was known as a “big guy” with a “big heart”.
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.”
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Facebook that she was “incredibly sad” to hear the news of Matt’s death.
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News – Heartbroken partner of slain cop pays tribute to her ‘gentle giant’