TRIBUTES have been paid to a Sussex rugby coach and long-serving police officer shot dead in south London. 

Sgt Matiu Ratana, 54, was two months away from retirement when he was shot in the chest in Croydon custody centre on Friday. 

Sgt Ratana, known as Matt to his family and friends, served as Head Coach for East Grinstead Rugby Football Club. 

Chairman of the club Bob Marsh and president Andy Poole have paid tribute to the “talented” police officer. 

They said: “East Grinstead Rugby Football Club are utterly devastated to hear the tragic news that the Police Sergeant who lost his life in Croydon, was our Head Coach, Matt Ratana.

“Matt was an inspiring and much-loved figure at the club and there are truly no words to describe how we are feeling.
We would like to take some time as a club and community to begin to comprehend what has happened.

“Our deepest and sincerest condolences go to Matt’s loved ones, family, friends, colleagues and to our community rugby family at this most terrible time.”

A spokesman for Eastbourne Rugby Club said: “On behalf of everyone at the club, we are shocked and saddened to hear the devastating news of Sgt Matt Ratana in the line of duty. 

“Someone who served the community as a police officer and gave back as Head Coach of  East Grinstead Rugby Football Club.

“Matt always welcomed us and wanted to support rugby to be played and to be played in the manner it should be. 

“He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers are with Matts family, friends, colleagues and everyone associated with East Grinstead RFC.”

Sgt Ratana died in hospital after the 23-year-old gunman opened fire at Croydon Custody Centre in south London 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.

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

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.

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “It is at that point that shots were fired resulting in the fatal injuries to the officer and critical injuries to the man.

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

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”.

He was “big in stature, big in heart, friendly, capable, a lovely man and highly respected by his colleagues”, and leaves behind a partner and adult son, Dame Cressida Dick said.