De Zoysa found guilty of murder in Croydon police station

Under arrest: Louis De Zoysa was taken to the Croydon Custody Centre in the early hours of Sep 25, 2020. Today, he was found guilty of the murder of Sgt Matt Ratana

Louis De Zoysa was today handed a guilty verdict by a jury at Northampton Crown Court for the murder in September 2020 of Police Sergeant Matt Ratana, who was shot through the heart with a pistol that the accused had smuggled into the Croydon Custody Centre.

On the night of the murder, De Zoysa had been arrested on London Road, Norbury, by two officers, who conducted a search but failed to locate the loaded gun.

Today, Ratana’s brother, James Young, was reported as saying that the search of De Zoysa “was not done right”.

The court heard that De Zoysa, 25, from Banstead, managed to fire shots despite being handcuffed after being found with bullets by members of a street patrol.

After the initial shot, a further three shots were fired during a struggle with police officers. One hit Ratana in the leg and the final shot left De Zoysa with a “severe and life-threatening injury”.

De Zoysa’s lawyers argued that he had not meant to shoot Ratana, and claimed he had a defence of diminished responsibility because he had had an “autistic meltdown”.

Much admired: rugby-playing Sgt Matt Ratana had spent a career in the Met and was weeks away from retirement

But a doctor told the court that he did not think De Zoysa had been hyperventilating, based on video footage of the incident. The doctor also said De Zoysa “demonstrated a clear ability to control his actions”.

Duncan Penny KC, for the prosecution, told the court that De Zoysa had probably concealed his antique revolver his armpit.

Ratana, originally from New Zealand, had been a Metropolitan police officer for 29 years and was three months from retirement.

Responding to the verdict today, the Metropolitan Police spokesperson sounded defensive when asked if the force had apologised to Ratana’s family for the failure of the initial search to locate the murder weapon.

“There’s only one person who killed Matt and that is Louis De Zoysa,” said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy.

DAC Cundy went on to describe how the Met had changed its working practices following an arrested prisoner, in handcuffs, managing to smuggle a loaded gun into a police station and firing off four bullets, including a fatal shot to the chest of an unarmed officer.

Cundy said Ratana’s death had been a “catalyst” for the issuing of more than 4,000 hand-held metal detectors to frontline officers, all frontline vehicles and all custody suites, and for the piloting of full body scanners in custody suites.

De Zoysa will be sentenced by the judge, Mr Justice Johnson, at a later date.

During the court case, it emerged that at just after 1.30am on the morning of September 25, 2020, PC Rich Davey and PC Samantha Still were patrolling in a police car along London Road when they saw De Zoysa walking along a small brown duffle bag. They decided to stop him.

Defensive: DAC Stuart Cundy

De Zoysa told the officers he was carrying cannabis. He was handcuffed and PC Davey found seven bullets in a pouch in his breast pocket.

In a holster hidden under his left arm was an antique and supposedly obsolete .41 calibre Colt revolver. De Zoysa had made his own ammunition. The six chambers of the revolver were fully loaded.

The officers frisked De Zoysa and searched his bag. The officers did not have a metal detector.

De Zoysa was driven the short distance to the Croydon Custody Centre on Windmill Road in a police van. Detectives have suggested that it was during the journey that De Zoysa moved the gun from the holster to his hands, still cuffed behind his back. There was a CCTV camera in the van.

There was no metal detector at the entrance to the custody area.

Once De Zoysa was in the custody suite, Sgt Ratana took control. When he heard about the discovery of bullets, Ratana said to the arresting officers: “So, you’re probably going to need a further search.”

He handed a metal detector wand to PC Davey: “Just wand him down but don’t take the cuffs off.”

Much of what followed was captured on the station’s CCTV. De Zoysa started muttering to PCs Davey and Still. He could be heard to say, “Please leave, please leave.”

As PC Davey pulled him to his feet, De Zoysa brought his still-cuffed hands from behind his back and shot Sgt Ratana.

There followed a struggle of about 15seconds, as the PCs leapt on De Zoysa. He managed to fire three times more, the fourth shot going into his own neck.

It was suggested that De Zoysa had unusual flexibility in his joints which allowed him, at some point, to move the gun from the holster to his hand, while keeping it concealed.

Hand gun: custody centre CCTV appears to show De Zoysa with an object – the antique revolver – in his hand

Some of the CCTV footage appears to show the gun in his hands while in the custody suite.

Back in Ratana’s native New Zealand, his brother James Young has become familiar with police procedures – he has often found himself on the wrong side of the law.

According to reports by the BBC, James Young “cannot believe that London police did not detect the gun”.

Young said: “What they’ve told us is they’ve changed the procedures and all these sorts of things; they’ve got metal detectors when you walk in through now. I’m like, well, they’ve got those in the police stations here. They’ve had them for years.

“In New Zealand, for a fact, what he had on him if he was here in New Zealand, they would have found that. Because I’ve been through that situation. I’ve been through police stations where they searched the suspect. It was not done right.”

An investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct found that PCs Rich Davey and Samantha Still “did not strictly follow training”, but that they should not face any disciplinary proceedings. The IOPC did recommend the introduction of hand-held metal detectors.

It was never explained during the trial why De Zoysa was carrying a gun that night (his parents have a home in Norbury), or why he opened fire on Sgt Ratana.

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