Murderer of Sgt Matt Ratana did not have ‘an autistic meltdown’ that led to the fatal shooting in the Windmill Road custody centre, as the defence had claimed, judge rules at emotional sentencing hearing
Louis De Zoysa, who shot and killed Police Sergeant Matt Ratana in a Croydon police station in September 2020, was today given a life sentence by the judge at a hearing held at Northampton Crown Court.
Referring to it as “a case of exceptionally high seriousness” the judge, Mr Justice Jeremy Johnson, told De Zoysa, “You murdered a police officer in the course of his duty.”
The judge said that De Zoysa had not had an “autistic meltdown”, as the defence had claimed.
“Your actions were voluntary. They were controlled. They were deliberate. You acted in cold blood.”
Justice Johnson said, “Autism is not to blame, you are to blame for that.
“You intended to kill Sergeant Ratana. You deliberately aimed the gun at his chest at point-blank range.” He said that there had been a degree of planning and premeditation that led to the death of the officer.
De Zoysa had had to be wheeled in to court this morning to hear the victim impact statements, some legal arguments and his sentence.
The proceedings were delayed briefly to hear an application from a journalist for further video footage to be released, including video of the moment the fatal shot was fired.
Sergeant Ratana’s family opposed this, and the application was refused by the judge.
De Zoysa was handed a guilty verdict last month for the murder of Police Sergeant Ratana, who was shot through the heart with a pistol that the accused had smuggled into the Croydon Custody Centre on Windmill Road.
During the three-week trial, the jury had been shown distressing video footage of the sergeant being shot by De Zoysa.
De Zoysa fired four times, the fourth bullet hitting an artery in his own neck and causing brain damage.
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.
The court heard that De Zoysa, 26, from Banstead, managed to fire the shots despite being handcuffed after being found with bullets by members of a street patrol.
Ratana, 54, originally from New Zealand, had been a Metropolitan police officer for 29 years and was three months from retirement at the time of his murder.
The judge had to decide whether to send De Zoysa to prison for the rest of his life, with no prospect of release.
The sentence for murder is usually life, but most murderers are given a “minimum term” that they will actually spend behind bars, after which the Parole Board can authorise their release on licence.
The starting point for the murder of a police officer is a “whole life order”, which means that the the murderer will never be released.
De Zoysa’s lawyers had made a case that because of their client’s autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis, his age, and because of the brain damage he sustained during the shooting, he should be given a life sentence with a fixed minimum term.
“This is not a case in which you should impose a whole-life order,” Imran Khan KC, De Zoysa’s solicitor advocate, told the judge.
“We say there are substantial mitigating factors.”
Justice Johnson, in sentencing, said that he found the aggravating factors in the crime – the possession of a gun and its ammunition, which De Zoysa had made himself – outweighed all mitigating factors.
De Zoysa, his right arm in a sling, observed proceedings from his wheelchair in the dock, accompanied by two police officers in stab vests, two medical staff and a dock officer. He was described as “impassive throughout” during the victim statements.
His ability to understand the case is limited by the brain damage he suffered from the stroke triggered when he shot himself in the neck.
Matt Ratana’s partner Su Bushby was sitting at the back of the court; she was to read a victim statement before the court, one of five to be heard before the judge passed sentence.
“I wanted to see if it was real because I didn’t want to believe what I had just been told,” Bushby said of the moment she heard the terrible news.
“I can remember falling to floor, screaming and crying uncontrollably,” she told the court.
“I cannot forgive him for what he has done,” Bushby said of DE Zoysa.
“The trial has taken its toll on me. It wasn’t easy, facing him every day in the courtroom, but I knew I had to do it for Matt. I felt emotionally drained every day at court.”
Ratana’s sister, Jessica Williams, recalled how, because of the pandemic lockdown, she had to watch his funeral on television. “The impact of what this person has done has left me shattered…
“I feel like I could drown in the amount of grief I carry each day.”
Another statement was from James Young, Matt Ratana’s brother, which was read by one of the prosecting lawyers, Duncan Penny KC.
Referring to the phone call he received in September 2020 to inform him of his brother’s death, Young said, “Hatred and anger, most of all pain and sorrow, is how I have been since then.
“The loss of my brother has been the hardest event in my life.”
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