The partner of a Metropolitan Police sergeant who was shot dead in a custody cell has criticized officers for a “catalog of serious failings”.

Matt Ratana of the Metropolitan Police was murdered in the early hours of September 25, 2020 by Louis de Zoysa, who opened fire with an antique revolver while in custody in Croydon, south London.

De Zoysa, who is autistic, had previously been arrested and searched, but officers were unable to find the gun, which the 26-year-old was carrying in a forearm holster, although they discovered bullets in his pocket.

Senior coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe completed an inquest into Sergeant Ratana’s death at Croydon Town Hall on Monday and concluded it was an unlawful killing.

She added: “There was a failure to conduct a safe, thorough and systematic search.”

Sgt Ratana’s partner of five years Su Bushby told reporters she was “angry” because his death “should have been avoided”.

She added: “I have heard evidence that Metropolitan Police officers did not do their job properly in searching a man who was carrying a significant amount of drugs and bullets.”

“Without a list of serious mistakes and if people had done their jobs properly, Matt would still be alive today.

Matt has given so much to the Metropolitan Police and the failure to protect him that night is now clear for all to see

“The shoddy and inadequate search by police officers was a dereliction of duty and placed Matt at risk of murder.

“I am devastated by the number of failures, their seriousness and the impact of both the failures in the investigation and the failures in transporting (Louis) de Zoysa to the police station that came to light during the evidence collection in this investigation.”

“I feel that Matt has been let down by the Metropolitan Police.

“Matt has given so much to the Metropolitan Police and the failure to protect him that night is now clear for all to see.

“The search should have been thorough, secure and systematic to be effective – this was not the case.

“If it had been an effective search, the weapon would have been found on de Zoysa and Matt would be alive now.”

Ms Bushby said there “must” be improvements to searches of suspects and security at police stations, adding: “I don’t want Matt’s death to be in vain.”

She continued: “Not once in the last three years has anyone from the Metropolitan Police informed me that there were problems with the search on that fateful night.

“I was not informed by anyone during this time that the actions of the Metropolitan Police may have contributed to Matt’s death.

“If the Metropolitan Police had been more open and transparent with me about their failings it would have made the final weeks of this investigation much easier.”

PC Richard Davey, a probation officer who carried out the search while his more senior colleague, PC Samantha Still, assisted, admitted he had abandoned his training and was said to have discovered the weapon during the arrest in London Road, Norbury, at around 1.30am .

In the custody car, footage showed de Zoysa moving back and forth, which expert evidence suggested suggested he was transferring the firearm into his hands.

After arriving at Windmill Road detention center in Croydon, de Zoysa was allowed to leave without an officer holding his arm or handcuffing him.

De Zoysa later managed to pull his handcuffed arms from behind his back to shoot Sergeant Ratana.

The New Zealand-born, 54-year-old officer, who had served with the Met Police for almost 30 years and was three months away from retirement, was hit in the chest by the first of three shots fired by de Zoysa within three seconds.

A second bullet struck him in the thigh before de Zoysa was thrown to the ground by other officers, while a third bullet hit the cell wall.

Former tax office data analyst de Zoysa, who lived in a farm apartment in Banstead, Surrey, fired a fourth shot on the cell floor, hitting an artery in his own neck and causing him brain damage.

He is serving a life sentence for the murder of Sgt Ratana following a trial earlier this year where his legal team said he was suffering an autistic breakdown at the time of the shooting.

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