The Duke of Cambridge has laid a wreath in memory of a police officer killed in the line of duty.
William left the floral tribute at a memorial bench in honour of Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was fatally shot as he prepared to search a handcuffed suspect.
The duke was joined by Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick during his visit to Croydon Custody Centre, where the shooting happened in the early hours of September 25 last year.
As he arrived, the future king told Dame Cressida: “I’ve wanted to come here for a while”, and she replied: “It’s going to mean a lot to people.”
After leaving the flowers on the bench, which features a small plaque engraved with the words “In memory of Sergeant Matt Ratana”, William stepped back and bowed his head for a few moments.
New Zealand-born Sgt Ratana – also known as Matiu – was described by Su Bushby, his partner of five years, as her “gentle giant”.
William met her privately and took part in a moment of reflection with the officer’s friends and colleagues.
Inspector Wil Ajose-Adeogun, who was Sgt Ratana’s line manager and close friend, said: “Meeting the duke today brought back many fond memories of Matt, his enormous energy, his sense of duty and his overwhelming kindness.
“He was not just our colleague, he was our dear friend. His personality was the life and sound of Croydon Custody Centre and we all miss him dearly.”
Later, when chatting to the officer’s former colleague and friend Sergeant Steve Braithwaite, William said: “Clearly he was the heart and soul of the police station.
“He liked his hugs as well, apparently. He left behind a legacy and touched a lot of lives.”
Sgt Ratana, a coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, had worked in the Met Police for nearly 30 years and served in a number of London boroughs and teams before transferring in 2015 to Croydon, where he was a custody sergeant.
Speaking after the visit, Sgt Braithwaite said: “Prince William asked how we deal with death, and I said we would usually get drunk and make morbid jokes, to get through it, but we haven’t been able to do that because of lockdown and he said ‘Let me know when you do’ and he would join us one day.”
Describing his reaction when he learned his friend had died, he said: “I felt numb. It was horrific. It’s been really tough.
“Even now I’m still a bit numb and not got to grieve and still think he will come round the corner again and give one of his big bear hugs. The atmosphere was tough here for a while, but it has got better slowly.”
William also heard about initiatives across the Metropolitan Police Service to support the mental health of its workforce, like Operation Hampshire which helps those who have been injured or assaulted while at work.
And he met the Met’s first welfare and wellbeing support dog, Dexter, who helps officers deal with stressful and traumatic incidents they come across in the line of duty.
Dame Cressida said after the royal visit: “The awful killing of Sergeant Matt Ratana sent shockwaves through the Met and I know we continue to mourn his loss.
“Matt left a powerful legacy across the Met and I was proud to welcome His Royal Highness to Croydon Custody Centre and to meet some of Matt’s colleagues and friends.
“Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep people safe every day and they can be exposed to very harrowing and traumatic experiences.
“I am extremely proud of the men and women across the Met who support colleagues who have experienced trauma, breaking down the stigma of mental health and ensuring those who need help are supported.”
– A 23-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering Sgt Ratana.
He remains seriously ill in hospital after suffering a gunshot wound, and police say they remain in contact with medical staff and legal advisors about progressing the investigation.
He has not been named by the force but is widely reported to be Louis De Zoysa.