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Croydon College students create memorial artwork in honour of murdered police officer

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Croydon College students have created a memorial piece of artwork to honour murdered police sergeant Matt Ratana, which featured donated epaulettes from police across the world.

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

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

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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.

The artwork features 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.

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

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

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

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Nestled in the centre of the epaulettes is a wooden symbol 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.

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.

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

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.”

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