Mourners remember ‘kindness and spirit’ of murdered policeman Matt Ratana
Moving tributes have been paid to murdered policeman Matt Ratana by his family, friends and colleagues 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 Sergeant Ratana’s native New Zealand as well as in the UK, could join the service.
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.
Along with flowers, there was also a traditional Maori fighting weapon called a mere, which the chief of a tribe would hand down to his son, sent as a sign of respect from New Zealand police, where he worked from 2003 to 2008.
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 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.
“You were taken far too soon, your gym, rugby and policing family will help your legacy, your kindness and your spirit live on.
“You have touched so many people’s lives, you will be truly missed. My life has been richer and funnier for knowing you and I feel blessed you were in my life.”
She remembered her partner’s “big, infectious smile” and said he would want everyone who knew him to remember him with love.
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.
It makes me very proud to see the impact that he has had and how he touched the lives of so many
“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: “My dad Matthew was certainly larger than life and a man loved by so many people.
“It is deeply touching to see the tributes that have been paid to him and the outpouring of love and support from friends, family, work colleagues, the rugby community and the people of the United Kingdom and beyond.
“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.
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 song In Your Eyes by George Benson. Prayers were said in both Maori and English.
Other tributes were paid by Met colleague and friend Chris Corlett, who said: “My family and I won’t forget Matt, ever. Nor will the thousands of people whose lives he touched.
“My solace in this is that I still talk to Matt, although I know he’s gone physically. I ask his advice, and he still makes me laugh, and laughs at me, and I still feel inspired by him. Some things never die. Matt’s energy and his love is all still here.”
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.
He would trick unsuspecting friends by asking them if they knew what the All Blacks side step was – before charging them down.
Mr Donohoe said: “His tricks and antics are legendary and will remain the topic of conversation for many years to come. But we cannot, and will not, forget what made him so legendary as a person.
“It was his caring about others. No matter who you were, he always had time for you. He would help, guide and encourage others, be it with work or in society in general.
“He was a big man with a big heart and would always treat others the way he wanted to be treated himself.
“He will be deeply missed. His passing has left us with a massive, Matt Ratana-shaped hole not only in our gym but in the hearts of every life he touched.”
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
Sgt Ratana’s friend from East Grinstead Rugby Club, Rylan Morlen, recalled that his last words to the officer had been “Be safe, mate”.
He told the service his friend would be “hugely missed and a figure that will never be replaced”.
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.
“We will achieve what we’d spoken about, just wait and see. Continue to watch down on us all, watch the club do you proud.
“Goodbye for now. I’m sure our paths will cross again one day and when they do we’ll talk rugby again.”