The devastated family of Sergeant Matt Ratana have admitted the outpouring of emotion for the fallen officer has provided comfort as it showed he was “as loved as we loved him”.

Sgt Ratana, 54, was shot by a suspect at Croydon Custody Centre in the early hours of Friday and died in hospital a short-while later.

Hundreds of tributes have been paid to the much-loved officer who was an "irreplaceable figure" and a "role model to many".

His cousin Adrian Rurawhe, a Labour MP in New Zealand, told the Mirror the kind messages from around the world have been "comforting".

"We’re in shock at losing someone well before their time and the nature of what happened makes it doubly troubling for us," he said.

“One thing that’s been really comforting is to hear the stories from friends and colleagues in the UK.

“That’s been very comforting - to know he was as loved as we loved him.

“He took the values that are important to us and was still carrying them out halfway around the world.”

Sgt Ratana was shot dead at Croydon Custody Centre

Mr Rurawhe said information from the Metropolitan Police has been scant as the force carries out its probe.

“I know that Matt would have followed all the correct procedures,” he said.

“It seems odd he (the suspect) was already in custody and this happened when he apparently had handcuffs on.”

He said his cousin was very happy in the UK with partner Sue Bushby, who he lived with in Worthing, West Sussex, and was looking forward to retirement.

“Matt loved being a police officer,” he said.

“My sister spoke to him recently and he told her he was looking forward to retirement.

“I would always joke with him about his accent - he still sounded like a Kiwi but the UK influence was there.

“I would always talk to him about him coming home, he was a natural-born leader and he could have taken a leadership role within the tribe here.

“He was very happy in the UK and with Sue, he had a really good life there.”

Mr Rurawhe said Matt had 44 first cousins and family all over the world.

The family is planning on holding a commemoration for Sgt Ratana.

Hundreds of tributes have been left outside Croydon Custody Centre in memory of Sgt Ratana
Players observe a minute's silence at East Grinstead rugby club to pay their respects to Sgt Ratana who was the head coach at the club

The 23-year-old suspect, who was handcuffed and being searched when he reportedly shot Sgt Ratana and turned the gun on himself, last night remained in a critical condition in hospital.

Detectives investigating Sgt Ratana's death arrested a man in Norwich at 2am on Sunday on suspicion of supplying a gun linked to his shooting.

It also emerged armed police raided a farmhouse in Surrey on Saturday morning in connection with the killing.

With officers understood to have blown a door off, one neighbour said: “There was a huge explosion about 5.40am yesterday and I looked out my window and saw that there must have been 20 police cars and vans bumper to bumper lining the private road towards the farmhouse next door.

“It was dawn so it was just getting light and I could make out police with guns, some were dressed all in black and some had a military-style uniform on.”

Police at Courtlands Farm in Banstead, Surrey where officers carried out searches in relation to Sgt Ratana's death

One local claimed to have “seen people coming and going from the farm over the last year”, adding that a “light-skinned Asian or mixed race” man in his early 20s had been a regular visitor over the past few weeks.

The neighbour added: “There’d be a steady stream of white vans always going down the farm road late at night. The gates would also be chained shut and concrete blocks placed in front of them to stop anyone coming in.”

Forensic searches continued at a house in Norbury, South London.

One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said residents of the road had noticed a lot of police activity surrounding the property in previous years.

Meanwhile a cordon was taken down outside a nearby block of flats where the suspect was arrested.

Sgt Ratana is the eighth police officer in the UK to be shot dead in the past 20 years.

Prince Charles paid tribute to fallen officers on National Police Memorial Day

Prince Charles led tributes to fallen officers on National Police Memorial Day on Sunday.

Addressing the police memorial in a video message, he said: “The dreadful incident in Croydon on Friday is the latest heartbreaking evidence of the risks faced by our officers daily.

“I would like to send my deepest sympathy to the families of each of these officers who have given their lives.

“These are losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay, but of which, as a society, we can only strive to be worthy.”

Prince Charles added officers have met the “invisible threat” of coronavirus with “visible courage and commitment” and provided a “calm reassurance that has been so essential to our communities day and night”.

Speaking directly to the bereaved and serving officers, he said: “I can only say to all the families, friends and colleagues of fallen officers - and to every serving officer throughout the United Kingdom - that you and your loved ones will always have a very special place in the heart of our nation.”

Earlier Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Home Secretary Priti Patel laid wreaths at the National Police Memorial in central London as part of the commemorations.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, Home Secretary Priti Patel and London Mayor Sadiq Khan attend the National Police Memorial in London

All three stood for a minute of silence to remember officers who had lost their lives while on duty.

Dame Cressida said: “If some good can come out of this terrible incident in which we have had one of our officers murdered it would be that more people can understand a little bit about the challenges of police work and to see us police as who we are – human beings, going to work to help people, to support people and to protect people.

“Matt was the epitome of that.”

Describing him as an “extraordinary person”, she added: “He had a wonderful personality and he was very good at his job.”

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “Policing comes with a huge amount of risk and this is at the forefront of our minds, even more so following the devastating news on Friday when our colleague in the Metropolitan Police was killed.

“National Police Memorial Day ensures that police officers who gave their all are never forgotten.

“We must always remember them - their commitment and ultimate sacrifice to public service.

“Every day police officers selflessly put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others - I thank them, and I am proud to represent them.”

Sunday’s service, led by the National Police Chaplain, the Rev Canon David Wilbraham, also featured pre-recorded messages from families who have lost loved ones.