Watch: Prince William pays tribute to Sgt Matt Ratana
Prince William has met privately with the partner of Sergeant Matiu Ratana, who was shot and killed while on duty at a custody centre last year.
Sgt Ratana, who was known as Matt, was shot in the chest as the handcuffed suspect was being taken into custody in Croydon on 25 September.
Sgt Ratana, who was originally from New Zealand, had been a police officer for nearly 30 years, and was transferred to the Croydon borough in 2015.
On Wednesday, the Duke of Cambridge took part in a moment of reflection, laying flowers on a memorial bench for the late officer.
He also had a private meeting with Sgt Ratana's partner Su Bushby, and spoke to some of his former colleagues.
Bushby previously referred to Sgt Ratana as a "gentle giant".
On arrival William was met by Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who he told: "I’ve wanted to come here for a while."
She said: "It’s going to mean a lot to people."
Later, speaking to the officer’s former colleague and friend Sgt Steve Braithwaite, William said: “Clearly he was the heart and soul of the police station.
“He liked his hugs as well, apparently. He left behind a legacy and touched a lot of lives.”
Inspector Wil Ajose-Adeogun, who was Sgt Ratana’s line manager and close friend, said: “Meeting the duke today brought back many fond memories of Matt, his enormous energy, his sense of duty and his overwhelming kindness.
“He was not just our colleague, he was our dear friend. His personality was the life and sound of Croydon Custody Centre and we all miss him dearly.”
William's visit came during mental health awareness week, and so the duke was told about the initiatives in place to help the staff with their mental health.
He met the Met Police's first welfare and wellbeing support dog, Dexter, who helps officers deal with stressful and traumatic incidents they come across in the line of duty.
Speaking after the visit, Sgt Braithwaite said: “Prince William asked how we deal with death, and I said we would usually get drunk and make morbid jokes, to get through it, but we haven’t been able to do that because of lockdown, and he said ‘Let me know when you do’ and he would join us one day.”
Describing his reaction when he learned his friend had died, he said: “I felt numb. It was horrific. It’s been really tough.
“Even now I’m still a bit numb and not got to grieve and still think he will come round the corner again and give one of his big bear hugs. The atmosphere was tough here for a while, but it has got better slowly.”
Dame Cressida said after the royal visit: "The awful killing of Sgt Matt Ratana sent shockwaves through the Met and I know we continue to mourn his loss.
"Matt left a powerful legacy across the Met and I was proud to welcome His Royal Highness to Croydon Custody Centre and to meet some of Matt’s colleagues and friends.
"Police officers put themselves in harm’s way to keep people safe every day and they can be exposed to very harrowing and traumatic experiences.
"I am extremely proud of the men and women across the Met who support colleagues who have experienced trauma, breaking down the stigma of mental health and ensuring those who need help are supported."
A 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of killing Sgt Ratana, but has not been named by the Met.
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