The partner of the Metropolitan Police sergeant shot dead at a south London custody centre has described him as her “gentle giant” and “rock”.
Su Bushby paid tribute to Matt Ratana by reading the poem To Those Whom I Love and Those Who Love Me at a memorial service for him in Westminster, central London.
The service was attended by Home Secretary Priti Patel, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
In a further tribute given to the congregation in the order of service, Ms Bushby wrote: “I first met Matt in 2015 and I don’t think either of us was prepared to meet our soul mate at such a late age, but we just got along so well from the start.
“At the time I had no idea that this man was going to play such a major part in my life. On our first date he took me to his gym; on our first ‘proper’ date I was watching the All Blacks at London’s Olympic Stadium. A sign of things to come maybe?”
She added: “To sum Matt up in a few words is almost impossible but it was clear from the outset that he was a caring, considerate, fun-loving man. His huge smile was infectious.
“Over the last twelve months I have learned so much about the man I loved from so many different people. He was my rock, my best friend, my partner, my confidant and my gentle giant. Then he was gone.”
During his career, Sgt Ratana worked for the Territorial Support Group and formerly in the New Zealand Police where he joined the British High Commission Wing.
Ms Bushby described his career as “one of achievement and dedication” and said a medal he was awarded by Dame Cressida for his long service and good conduct was a “proud and memorable moment” for them both.
The 54-year-old New Zealand-born officer died after being shot at a custody suite in Croydon, south London, on September 25 2020.
Ahead the service, Dame Cressida and Ms Patel exchanged a few words with Ms Bushby at the National Police Memorial near the Mall before joining a procession along Horse Guards Road and Birdcage Walk towards the Royal Military Chapel (the Guard’s Chapel).
Around 200 police officers lined the route dressed in full black ceremonial uniform, including helmets and white gloves.
The officers fell behind Ms Bushby and the other dignitaries as they walked, forming ranks.
When the procession arrived at the chapel, they greeted a group of trainee police puppies dubbed the Ratana litter in tribute to the sergeant.
The German shepherds were named by Ms Bushby when she and Dame Cressida visited the Met’s Dog Training Establishment earlier this year.
The puppies are named Carter, Matiu, Jonah, Blu, Koru, Valentine and Whanau. The word whanau means family in the Maori language, in recognition of Sgt Ratana’s heritage, while Matiu was his full first name.
Ms Bushby was hugged outside the chapel by members of the clergy – Reverend David Crees, London District Chaplain, Reverend Prebendary Jonathan Osborne, the Met’s Senior Chaplain and the Archdeacon of Canterbury Jo-Kelly Moore – who led the memorial service.
The hour-long service included hymns, readings and tributes, including a Maori hymn sung by New Zealand cultural group Ngati Ranana.
The formal handing over of a hat and gloves to Ms Bushby also took place inside the chapel.
At the end of the service, a bugler played the Last Post, which then was followed by a minute’s silence.
After the event, the Home Secretary spent a few moments petting police horses before leaving with members of her security team.
The event was held in place of the full force funeral that could not go ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Colleagues from many teams across the police force, including the dog unit, mounted branch, and Croydon borough, were present inside the chapel.
Dame Cressida described it as a “beautiful memorial service”, telling journalists after the event: “It was a great moment for so many colleagues to come together, together with Matt’s partner Su and her family and friends. A fantastic tribute, very moving indeed.”
She added: “I met Matt on a number of occasions, I didn’t know him as well as so many others but he had a huge presence, he was a big man, he always had a smile, he was very kind.
“He thought about everybody else all the time. I used to see him on our big public order and events.
“He was a totally reliable presence, hugely experienced, incredibly calm. Just a great, great police officer who inspired everybody he met, police and public.”
Louis De Zoysa, 24, has been charged with Sgt Ratana’s murder.