Loved ones and police colleagues of murdered Sergeant Matt Ratana have paid tribute to the man with a “lion’s heart” at his funeral service.
The memorial for the 54-year-old at a chapel in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, was attended in person on Wednesday by a limited number of his family, friends and close colleagues due to coronavirus restrictions.
But the event was live-streamed around the world so well-wishers, including loved ones in Sgt Ratana’s native New Zealand as well as in the UK, could join the service.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Home Secretary Priti Patel were among those who paid tribute.
His coffin was covered in the Metropolitan Police’s ceremonial drape, which is used for a death in service, with his police cap placed on top and a traditional Maori weapon sent by colleagues in New Zealand.
The coffin stood in front of a photograph of the officer wearing his East Grinstead rugby shirt, with a fern tree, a symbol of New Zealand’s national identity, to one side.
At the other side was a table with a photo tribute from his son Luke, which read: “Dad, Till we meet again, Aroha nui (much love) Luke,” with pictures including a fern, along with the officer’s police medals.
A tribute from his partner, Su Bushby, was read at the service on her behalf by friend Lorraine Dray.
She said: “Matt made the most of every minute of his precious 54 years. In any situation or room he walked into, his presence would always be felt. Like a big ball of energy.”
Ms Bushby’s tribute continued: “For now I’m not going to say goodbye, my darling, but see you one day.
“Matt, my partner, my friend, my confidante and my soulmate. You will always be in my heart and in my soul. I miss you. I love you.”
A tribute was also read out on behalf of relatives in New Zealand – including his brother James, his sister Jessica and his stepmother Dianne – by Met Police colleague Detective Constable Neil Perkin.
They said: “The nature of Matt’s death has been a harrowing experience for his family and friends here in New Zealand and around the world.
“Magnified by the distance and by the epidemic facing us all, which has prevented any of us being able to travel to his service today.
“However we are comforted by the knowledge that he is with people who love him as much as we do, and that his remains will return home, to his final resting place with his ancestors.”
His son Luke, who is also a police officer, said he had been touched by the tributes paid to his late father.
In a tribute read on his behalf by Mr Perkin, Sgt Ratana’s son said: “It makes me very proud to see the impact that he has had and how he touched the lives of so many.
“This has been a devastating and tragic event, but nothing we can do can change what has happened.
“My wish is that people come together, support one another and find solace and comfort in the sharing of their happy memories of Matthew’s life.
“Goodbye Dad. Rest in peace till we meet again.”
Sgt Ratana was killed when he was shot by a handcuffed suspect at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of September 25.
Met Police boss Dame Cressida told the memorial he had received a number of commendations during his service, including when while off duty he followed a suspect armed with a firearm and a knife.
She said: “The key to what made Matt a great police officer has already been mentioned – his lovely nature, and his big generous lion’s heart.
“He brought amazing energy and determination to the job, as to his life. As enthusiastic after 25 years as he was after two.”
Thanking Sergeant Ratana for his service, she ended with the words of one of his colleagues, who said: “We’ll take it from here, Sarg.”
Floral tributes in the chapel included a wreath from Home Secretary Priti Patel, which read: “In memory and remembrance of dear Matt, for his selfless sacrifice, courage and service.
“You will be forever in our thoughts and in our hearts. May you rest in peace. Home Secretary.”
Other floral tributes included an All Blacks rugby shirt with “Matt” in white lettering, along with wreaths from the East Grinstead rugby club and South Coast Gym.
Music at the service included rugby anthems Jerusalem and World In Union, as well as the songs In Your Eyes by George Benson and Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. Prayers were said in both Maori and English.
His friend, Debra Hajek, read the poem To Those Whom I Love And Those Who Love Me, while Neil Donohue, the director of South Coast Gym where Sgt Ratana trained, recalled how he would perform the Haka in the middle of the gym.
Sgt Ratana’s friend from East Grinstead Rugby Club, Rylan Morlen, recalled that his last words to the officer had been: “Be safe, mate.”
Mr Morlen said: “We all miss you and wish that we could turn back the clock so that you didn’t leave for your shift on the September 24.”
He went on: “I love you, we love you, and your legacy will always live on, Mr Ratana. Back to my final words to you as the office door closed – ‘Be safe, mate’. Sadly that wasn’t enough.”
Following the service former All Blacks captain Zinzan Brooke led a Haka outside the chapel, along with members of the London-based New Zealand culture group Ngati Ranana.
The hearse carrying Sgt Ratana’s coffin then paused for the Commissioner to salute, as Metropolitan Police Chaplain Reverend Prebendary Jonathan Osborne and Maori speaker the Venerable Jo Kelly-Moore, Archdeacon of Canterbury, stood with their heads bowed.
The funeral was followed by a private cremation.