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Georgina Pender stands in front of the artwork she created with two other students
Georgina Pender stands in front of the artwork she created with two other students

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Matt Ratana memorial artwork unveiled

A stunning memorial to murdered police sergeant Matt Ratana, which was hand-made by young people and incorporates hundreds of epaulettes donated by grieving colleagues from around the world, has been unveiled.

The artwork was revealed to Matt’s partner Su Busby following a memorial service at Croydon Custody Centre today, Friday, 23 September.

The thoughtful tribute, measuring 179cm by 179cm, is inspired by Matt’s 29-year policing career and recognises the impact his death had on others.

It features a starburst of almost 170 epaulettes which were left as a mark of respect by emergency services and military personnel who visited the building where Matt worked in the weeks following his death.

More than 300 epaulettes and badges were left.

The epaulettes include those of UK police forces, police from Matt’s country of birth New Zealand, and UK emergency and military services.

Nestled in the centre of the epaulettes is a wooden relief of Croydon, where Matt served the community for five years. In recognition of Matt’s Maori heritage and his personal attributes, the map features a large silver fern leaf – a Maori symbol for strength and enduring power.

The memorial artwork, which now adorns a wall inside Croydon Custody Centre, was created by three Croydon College students as a result of a project run by Matt’s colleagues and the college in January this year.

Georgina Pender, 18, from Lambeth – one of the creative minds behind the design – was at the unveiling today. She researched Matt’s heritage and contributed the silver fern symbol.

Georgina, who plans to study art therapy at university, said: “In making the artwork I learnt that even after bad things happen, there are a lot of good things that can come from it. It was interesting to see how much people loved this man I’d never heard of before.

"The artwork was a joint effort with police officers. It was nice to give something back."

Su Busby said: “I want to thank the students for the inspiring and imaginative collage they designed and created. I hope everyone enjoys this amazing piece of art depicting the fern, a symbol representing New Zealand where Matt came from, and made from the epaulettes donated by police officers and emergency services, commemorating Matt’s lifelong commitment to the police service which he was so proud to belong to.

“I’m grateful for everyone’s continued kindness, support and love in all our loss.”

Matt was tragically murdered while on duty at Croydon Custody Centre on 25 September 2020.

A memorial service was held today, led by Reverend Prebendary Jonathon Osborne, Met Senior Chaplain.

Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy, and Commander Dave Stringer – police lead for Croydon – were among the attendees who paid their respects by laying flowers on the Matt Ratana memorial bench outside Croydon Custody Centre.

Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, Commander for Croydon, said: “The students have done a wonderful job of capturing what Matt stood for and how people far and wide were affected by his tragic death.

“Matt was a larger-than-life character, with a real passion for helping others, so it was fitting to invite young Croydon community members to create a tribute to his legacy.

“Every day, colleagues will look at this spectacular artwork and they will remember Matt and be inspired to make a positive difference to others’ lives in the way he did with such inexhaustible enthusiasm.”