A man who concealed a loaded revolver and used it to kill a police sergeant in a south London custody centre has been sentenced to a whole life order in prison.
Louis De Zoysa, 26 (11.07.97), of no fixed address, was convicted of murdering Matt Ratana last month following a trial at Northampton Crown Court.
Today, Thursday, 27 July, he was sentenced to the whole life term for the murder of the popular police sergeant.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley spoke outside court following the conviction of De Zoysa, paying tribute to Matt and reflecting on the risks faced by officers and the courage they show each day.
Sir Mark said: “Matt dedicated almost 30 years to policing and was nearing retirement when he was tragically murdered. He was an outstanding officer who brought joy to his work, treating everyone with respect, compassion and good humour.
“In the days after his death, tributes flowed in from Matt’s colleagues, from communities he had served and from those who knew him in his life outside policing. They were a testament to the man he was.
“Whether it was on the street or in a custody centre as a uniformed police officer, or on the rugby field as a player and later a coach, it is clear he was someone who made an enduring impact wherever he went. We will ensure that he is never forgotten.
“I have also seen the heavy impact that Matt’s murder had on his colleagues, those he worked with in Croydon and also the many officers and staff he had served alongside in his lengthy career.
“That impact is particularly felt by those who were present on the night he was murdered.
“This tragedy has caused me to reflect on the uncertain world within which police officers operate and the risks they face day by day.
“Officers never have a perfect picture of what awaits them at the next incident. Every day we take several firearms off the streets of London and the majority are seized by unarmed officers.
“The men and women in policing, daily stepping forward into uncertainty and risk, are truly remarkable.
“The officers and staff who were on duty on the night Matt was killed showed just those attributes. Without their courage I believe that more lives would have been lost.
“I am immensely proud of their professionalism and their bravery. They have my enduring admiration and my full support.”
Matt’s partner, Su Bushby, read out a moving impact statement in court detailing the devastating impact his loss caused for her. Other statements from Matt’s adult son Luke and his mother Theresa who live in Australia, as well as representatives of his family in New Zealand, were also read out.
To recap: In the early hours of 25 September 2020, De Zoysa was stopped for the purpose of a search by two uniformed police officers on vehicle patrol, whilst in London Road, Croydon.
De Zoysa directed the officers to an amount of cannabis contained in a large holdall he was carrying. He was placed in handcuffs and detained for a search, during which they subsequently found some rounds of ammunition in a pouch.
He was arrested but unbeknownst to anyone, De Zoysa was concealing an antique firearm in a holster under his armpit.
Due to the discovery of the ammunition and for their security, officers handcuffed De Zoysa with his hands behind his back. He was placed in a police van and taken to the one of the Met’s custody centres on Windmill Road in Croydon for a further search.
After arrival, Police Sergeant Matt Ratana checked De Zoysa’s temperature as part of Covid protocols in place at the time. He was then allowed to enter the custody suite.
De Zoysa was still handcuffed to the rear and was placed into a holding cell where officers remained with him. Sergeant Ratana authorised a further search of De Zoysa, including the use of a hand-held metal detector search wand.
The arresting officers were standing either side of De Zoysa with Sergeant Ratana directly in front of him. As the officers struggled to get him to respond to an instruction to stand up, De Zoysa produced a gun to the right-hand side of his body and fired two shots at close range towards Sergeant Ratana. Officers immediately tried to disarm De Zoysa as he fired a third shot. As they brought him to the floor, De Zoysa fired a fourth shot which entered his own neck.
Police officers, staff and paramedics attempted to save Sergeant Ratana’s life. Tragically, despite their best efforts and being rushed to hospital, his injuries proved fatal.
De Zoysa was given life-saving first aid, during which the hidden firearm holster was discovered, and he was subsequently taken to hospital.
De Zoysa had sustained serious injuries. On 13 November 2020, once he was well enough to understand, he was arrested on suspicion of murdering a police officer. On 29 June 2021, he was deemed well enough to be formally charged with murder.
De Zoysa legally purchased the gun he used, an antique Colt .41, 1895 double action revolver, under ‘obsolete calibre’ exemptions and manufactured the ammunition at home. No ammunition was readily available to buy for the 128-year-old-weapon.
The events surrounding the murder have been independently investigated by both the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The IOPC investigation into the search of De Zoyza found no indication any officer behaved in a manner that would justify the bringing of disciplinary proceedings or that they had committed a criminal offence. They did identify some learning for two individual officers around body searching and transportation of detainees.
The IOPC has recommended to the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) that they consider the implementation of handheld metal detectors in all police response vehicles and vehicles used to transport detained persons.
At the time of the murder, hand-held metal detector wands were already in use in Met custody centres. Within weeks of the murder, the Met began a roll-out of hand-held search wands to vehicles used to transport suspects. Now 4,300 wands have been issued for use across the Met for front line officers in custody, vehicles and a pool of devices has been allocated for officers in vehicles and on foot/cycle patrol.
Officer and staff safety is always a priority for the Met and safety procedures, training and equipment are constantly kept under review. The Met has further improved its Public and Personal Safety Training (PPST). Training places a significant emphasis on scenarios and practical skills that officers can immediately implement. From February 2022, the use of search wands was incorporated into training, which focuses on their practical use as well enhanced searching of persons and vehicles.
(Source: Metropolitan Police)