02 November 2023

Officer ‘failed to correct colleague’s search method’ before Matt Ratana murder

02 November 2023

An experienced police officer failed to point out the incorrect search technique used by her probationer colleague who missed a gun used to murder a custody sergeant, an inquest has heard.

Matt Ratana, of the Metropolitan Police, was killed on September 25 2020 by Louis de Zoysa, who opened fire with an antique revolver at Croydon custody suite in south London.

De Zoysa, who is autistic, had earlier been arrested and searched but officers failed to find the gun the 26-year-old had in an underarm holster despite discovering bullets in his pocket.

During part of probationer Pc Richard Davey’s search of the gunman, which ignored training techniques, Pc Samantha Still checked police records and spoke to colleagues on her radio, an inquest at Croydon Town Hall heard on Thursday.

The officer, who had six years’ experience at the time, agreed this went against force guidelines as she was meant to give the search her full attention.

She also failed to point out Pc Davey’s incorrect technique, Dominic Adamson KC, representing Sgt Ratana’s partner, Su Bushby, said.

Mr Adamson asked: “Pc Davey’s failure to do a proper search was your failure to perform the role of a cover officer, wasn’t it?”

Pc Still replied: “It (the gun) should have been found.”

Mr Adamson went on: “It should have been found and in fact you should have pointed out that he had not done a proper search, hadn’t you?”

The officer added: “Correct.”

Pc Still said she believed at the time that the search was adequate and had covered all areas of de Zoysa’s body.

When Pc Davey found the bullets, she initially mistook them for nitrous oxide canisters, the inquest heard.

Addressing Ms Bushby, who was watching virtually, Pc Still added: “I’m sorry for your loss and the time you have gone through.

“I’m sorry this has happened.”

Pc Lauren Pardew, who later arrived to aid the two officers after the search had taken place, also gave evidence, and agreed with Mr Adamson that the discovery of ammunition merited a “high state of alert”.

At Croydon’s Windmill Road custody centre, De Zoysa managed to move his handcuffed arms from behind his back to fire at Sgt Ratana.

The 54-year-old New Zealand-born officer, who had served in the Met for almost 30 years and was three months from retirement, was hit in the chest by the first of three shots discharged by De Zoysa within three seconds.

A second bullet struck him in the thigh before De Zoysa was wrestled to the ground by other officers, as a third round hit the cell wall.

Former tax office data analyst De Zoysa, who was living in a flat on a farm in Banstead, Surrey, discharged a fourth shot while on the cell floor, hitting an artery in his own neck and causing him brain damage.

He is serving a whole-life prison sentence for Sgt Ratana’s murder after a trial earlier this year, during which his legal team argued that he was suffering an autistic meltdown at the time of the shooting.

The inquest, scheduled for three weeks, will next sit on Tuesday.

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