Published: 16:34 BST, 28 September 2020 | Updated: 16:58 BST, 28 September 2020

The partner of slain police sergeant Matt Ratana has spoken of ‘losing her soul mate’ in a touching tribute to him.

Experienced custody sergeant Mr Ratana, 54, was shot dead by a handcuffed suspect in the early hours of Friday at a custody suite in Croydon, south London.

His suspected killer, widely reported to be 23-year-old Louis De Zoysa, remains in a critical condition in hospital after he was also hit by a bullet following the killing.

The Metropolitan Police officer of almost 30 years has been described as someone who epitomised the role police play in protecting others and, as head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, was said to be an ‘irreplaceable figure’.   

Now Sue Bushby, Mr Ratana’s partner, has paid tribute to her ‘friend, confidant, support and soul mate’.

She said in a statement: ‘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.’

Sergeant Matiu Ratana (pictured with his partner Sue) was allegedly shot by a 23-year-old man who was detained for possession of ammunition at Croydon custody centre in South London

Now Sue Bushby, Mr Ratana’s partner, has paid tribute to her ‘friend, confidant, support and soul mate’

She added: ‘He will be greatly missed but never forgotten. Matt will always be in my head and in my heart. ‘ 

Sue Bushby’s mother Penelope today told how Sergeant Matiu Ratana had been a pillar of strength for her daughter after she lost her father Roy earlier this year. 

Mrs Bushby added it is difficult for the pair to ‘accept that we will never see him again’ after Mr Ratana, 54, was shot at point-blank range in the line of duty on Friday. 

Speaking to MailOnline, she said: ‘He was a very lovely man. He loved my daughter and she loved him back in the same way.

‘He couldn’t do enough for us or anybody who needed help. He recently called round with something for my TV and was his usual smiling self. 

Mrs Bushby said Sue and Mr Ratana had ‘talked about marrying’, but no concrete plans had been made.

‘He was an incredibly kind man,’ she said. ‘He loved Sue. He was so good for her. This is a very difficult time for all.’ 

The Metropolitan Police officer was allegedly shot five times in the chest at point-blank range at 2.15am on Friday by a man at Croydon Custody Centre in South London. 

It is understood he was preparing to search the handcuffed suspect, who had been detained for possession of ammunition and Class B drugs with intent to supply, with a metal detector in a Covid screening cell.    

Mr Ratana, who’s job was to look after the care and welfare of detained people, died in hospital. 

A year from retirement, the inspirational police officer (pictured) had thrown himself into coaching and was looking forward to being able to focus fully on nurturing future rugby stars

After moving to Worthing in West Sussex six years ago, Matiu Ratana took over as head coach of East Grinstead Rugby Club, helping youngsters develop their game

Scotland Yard is under mounting pressure to explain how the suspect managed to apparently conceal the revolver down his trousers and then open fire on the veteran officer from New Zealand while in handcuffs.

Sources said officers failed to find the suspect’s gun as it had been well hidden and would have been recovered only with an intimate strip search and body cavity check. 

It was today revealed by MailOnline that the gunman who shot Mr Ratana had been stopped by officers on the pavement outside a block of South London flat.

A cordon remains at Anderson Heights, Norbury, from where the suspect, 23, was taken to Croydon custody centre before the shooting Mr Ratana with his hands supposedly cuffed behind his back.

Security footage from a nearby office captured in the early hours of Friday and seen by MailOnline shows the suspect walking on the London Road in the direction of Streatham when he was stopped by a squad car outside the five-storey apartment as unsuspecting motorists drive past.

Officers were manning the tower block this morning, where a blue Peugeot and silver Vauxhall Corsa were seen inside the cordon and a stairwell next to the apartments has been taped off

Sergeant Matiu Ratana, who was 54, was allegedly shot five times in the chest at point-blank range during the incident on Friday

At 1.44am a rapid response vehicle arrives, followed two minutes later by a police van. The suspect is seen taken into the van at 1.47am.

It is unclear as to whether he was searched or handcuffed at the scene, but he did not appear to be behaving aggressively and seemed to cooperate with the officers. 

Tributes from loved-ones, colleagues and politicians have flooded in for the rugby-loving ‘big friendly bear’, who was months away from retirement.

Sergeant Ratana was a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Football Club and leaves behind a grown-up son and partner Ms Bushby who he lived with in Goring, Sussex.    

He was formerly a protection officer for Princess Diana, the Queen Mother and former-Prime Minister John Major.

And, in 1992, the hero officer found himself less than 330 yards away from an IRA car bomb which was exploding outside 10 Downing Street, The Mirror reports.

The father emigrated to Britain from New Zealand in 1989 and had been with the Metropolitan Police Service for almost 30 years. Friends said he was incredibly proud of his job and would do anything to help those in the community.

A bear of a man, the rugby-mad prop forward was thrown into the deep end of London’s dark underbelly, first policing in Hackney and later Croydon, where he died yesterday morning. 

Mask-wearing paramedics were among the crowds which descended on the Custody Centre in Croydon to pay their respects

Flowers are laid this morning outside Croydon Custody Centre by colleagues honoring Sgt Ratana who died in the line of duty 

Friends say that he dedicated his life to the force but away from work had a keen sense of humour and would leave friends in fits of laughter. 

After moving to Worthing in West Sussex six years ago, Mr Ratana took over as head coach of East Grinstead Rugby Club, helping youngsters develop their game.

He had been an outstanding player himself, even turning out for now professional side London Irish among a host of other London clubs. He had learnt the game at Palmerston North Boys’ High School, which has produced a number of All Blacks.

Three years after arriving in Britain he married Teresa Conway in Slough and the couple had a son, Luke, the following year.

They later separated and his ex-wife and son are thought to have emigrated to Australia. Friends said Mr Ratana had remained very close to Luke.

The man was being detained at Croydon custody centre in South London (pictured on Friday) when the incident took place

For the past four years he had been in a relationship with Sue Bushby. Her sister, Amanda Tessier, said Miss Bushby was devastated by the news and was being comforted by friends.

Describing Mr Ratana, she said: ‘He was a great big friendly bear of a man, one of the loveliest men you could meet.

‘He was absolutely dedicated to being a police officer and had almost 30 years of service.

The widow of Constable Andrew Harper yesterday spoke of her grief at ‘another hero’ being killed on the front line.

Lissie Harper said she was heartbroken over the death of Sgt Matiu Ratana, adding: ‘They protect us, but who protects them?’

The 29-year-old had been married to Mr Harper, a Thames Valley officer, for just four weeks when he was killed by a gang of three teenage thieves in August 2019.

She said: ‘This is devastating news. No person should go to work never to return. No human being should be stripped of their life in a barbaric act of crime. Another hero has been taken from us in unwarranted violence. They protect us but who protects them? Another life is gone in a disgraceful act that reminds us of the danger our police officers face with every shift they begin.’

Mr Harper, 28, was killed by the gang of teenagers in a speeding getaway car, who dragged him for more than a mile on country roads near Sulhamstead, Berkshire.

‘He knew the dangers of being a police officer in London and he had spoken about them but for him it was all part of the job.

‘It was something he was trained in and used to. He was such a lovely guy. We simply can’t believe it. How did someone have a gun in the police station?’

Among those paying tribute was Paul, 27, who was coached by Mr Ratana at East Grinstead.

He said: ‘The man was a machine. He was a leader among men. He would go from training us straight to work like he did last night.

‘He left training last night at about 9pm. He was such an inspiration. He helped our club so much.

‘Many years ago we lost our funding and he fought tooth and nail for the club and really lifted us up. As players we were like brothers. He was so vibrant, larger than life, he was the sort of guy that everyone just wanted to have a beer with.’

Glenn and Debbie Stobart lived next door to Mr Ratana in Coulsdon, south London, for a number of years before he moved to Worthing.

Mrs Stobart, a close friend, said: ‘He was a fantastic man. He was always helping others. If you were concerned about anything he would answer your concerns.

‘The first day he moved to the area he came and knocked on the door and introduced himself and everyone got to know him from then. He absolutely loved his job and being a police officer. He was so proud to serve the community.

‘He was looking forward to retirement next year but was unsure what he was going to do with all that spare time, so he threw himself into the rugby even more. He loved helping the kids out and it gave him a real purpose.’

Holding back tears as she discussed his killer, she added: ‘They should throw away the key.


News – Sgt Matt Ratana’s partner tells of ‘losing her soul mate’