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Matt Ratana: Haka tribute performed at murdered policeman’s funeral

Murdered policeman Matt Ratana has been remembered as a “big ball of energy” at his funeral, with the Haka performed in a moving tribute to the rugby fan.

Sergeant Ratana died after being shot by a handcuffed suspect at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of 25 September.

His funeral took place in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, on Wednesday, attended in person by a limited number of his family, friends and close colleagues due to coronavirus restrictions.

Pic: Metropolitan Police

However, the memorial for the 54-year-old was live-streamed around the world so that well-wishers, including loved ones in his native New Zealand as well as in the UK, could join the service.

Following the ceremony, former All Blacks captain Zinzan Brooke led the Haka outside the chapel, along with members of the London-based New Zealand culture group Ngati Ranana.

Sgt Ratana’s partner Su Bushby said he had “made the most of every minute” of his life.

Read at the service on her behalf by friend Lorraine Dray, Ms Bushby’s tribute said: “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 also remembered her partner’s “big, infectious smile”.

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.”

Sgt Ratana’s coffin was covered in the Met’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. It was 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.

During the service, a tribute was also read out on behalf of relatives in New Zealand – including Sgt Ratana’s 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.”

DC Perkin also read out a tribute from Luke, also a police officer, who said he was proud to see how many lives his father had touched.

“My dad Matthew was certainly larger than life and a man loved by so many people,” he said.

“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.”

Flowers 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.”

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 added: “Goodbye for now. I’m sure our paths will cross again one day, and when they do we’ll talk rugby again.”

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