Shock after rare killing of British police officer

Police officers leave floral tributes outside the Croydon Custody Centre in south London on September 25, 2020, following the shooting of a British police officer by a 23-year-old man being detained at the centre. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2020

Shock after rare killing of British police officer

  • The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply

LONDON: Police across Britain on Saturday paid silent tribute and flags were flown at half mast after a long-serving officer became the first to be shot dead in the line of duty in more than eight years.

Sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54, was shot by a 23-year-old man at Croydon Custody Center in south London at about 2:15 a.m (0115 GMT), and died in hospital.

The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, turned the gun on himself, and was said to be in critical but stable condition.

Ratana’s death is being treated as murder.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Ratana, who came to Britain from New Zealand and was known as Matt, was “senselessly killed.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, he joined the Met in 1991 after university and had nearly 30 years as a uniformed officer in the British capital.

He played for London Irish and the force rugby union team, before going into coaching at East Grinstead, near Croydon. He leaves a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

“As a colleague, he was big in stature and big-hearted, a friendly, capable police officer,” Dick said.

“A lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, and by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody.

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

Dick said security and police body camera footage would be examined closely as part of the investigation, after media reports suggested the suspect may not have been fully searched before entering the custody suite.

Many British police carry taser stun guns but are not routinely armed, although forces have tactical firearms units to respond quickly to incidents.

According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which sent investigators to the scene, no police firearms were fired.

The suspect was handcuffed and apparently opened fire in the custody suite with a revolver as officers prepared to search him, it added.

Deaths in service in Britain are rare and the shooting sent shockwaves throughout police forces across the country. 

Flags were lowered and officers stood in a minute’s silence in Ratana’s memory.

His death came as the British government is looking to introduce harsher sentences for attacks on emergency service workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to Ratana’s family, writing on Twitter that “we owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told parliament: “We ask our police officers to do an extraordinary job.

“The fact that one of them has fallen in the line of performing that duty is a tragedy for the entire nation.”

Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were the last British police officers to be shot dead in the line of duty, when they were ambushed in a gun and grenade attack in September 2012.

They were killed by drug dealer Dale Cregan while responding to a report of a burglary in Manchester, northwest England.

Since then, a further five officers have been killed on duty — four by vehicles while pursuing suspects and one, Keith Palmer, who was stabbed during a 2017 terror attack on parliament.

Ratana is the 17th officer from the Met to be killed by a firearm since the end of World War II, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honor.


White House official went to Syria seeking Americans’ release

A deputy assistant to President Donald Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official flew to Damascus to negotiate the hostages' release. (File/Reuters)
Updated 6 min 3 sec ago

White House official went to Syria seeking Americans’ release

  • It has been more than a decade since a high-level White House official had met with Assad's government
  • Syria erupted into civil war nearly a decade ago after Assad in 2011 began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule

WASHINGTON, DC: A White House official traveled to Damascus earlier this year for secret meetings with the Syrian government seeking the release of at least two US citizens thought to be held there, a Trump administration official said on Sunday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, named the official as Kash Patel, a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump and the top White House counterterrorism official, saying he had flown to Damascus.
“It is emblematic of how President Trump has made it a major priority to bring Americans home who have been detained overseas,” said the official, who was confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The newspaper, citing Trump administration officials and others familiar with the negotiations, described Patel’s trip as the first time such a high-level US official had met in Syria with the isolated government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in more than a decade.
Syria erupted into civil war nearly a decade ago after Assad in 2011 began a brutal crackdown on protesters calling for an end to his family’s rule.
The newspaper said US officials hoped a deal with Assad could free Austin Tice, a freelance journalist and former Marine officer who disappeared while reporting in Syria in 2012, and Majd Kamalmaz, a Syrian-American therapist who disappeared after being stopped at a Syrian government checkpoint in 2017.
At least four other Americans are believed to be held by the Syrian government, the newspaper reported, but little is known about those cases.
The Journal reported that Trump wrote Assad a private letter in March, proposing a “direct dialogue” about Tice.
It said that Lebanon’s top security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, met last week at the White House with national security adviser Robert O’Brien to discuss the Americans held in Syria, according to people involved in the talks.
Talks with Syria have not gotten very far, according to people briefed on them, the newspaper reported, saying Damascus has repeatedly demanded Washington withdraw all its forces from the country.