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Man handcuffed in London police cell shot and killed officer, court told

May 08, 2023May 08, 2023

Louis de Zoysa, 25, shot Sgt Matt Ratana, 54, with weapon probably hidden under his armpit, jury hears

A man shot and killed a police officer while handcuffed in a custody cell using an antique revolver with homemade bullets that were probably concealed under his armpit, a court has heard.

Louis de Zoysa, 25, allegedly smuggled a gun into Croydon police station and killed Sgt Matt Ratana, 54, who died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

The defendant received a gunshot wound to the left side of his face during the incident in September 2020, and has been left with brain damage.

The prosecutor, Duncan Penny KC, said De Zoysa, who denies murder, pointed his gun at Ratana and shot him "at very close range", causing a fatal injury to the left lung and heart of the officer.

A further three shots were fired during the struggle with police officers that followed, Penny said, with one shot hitting Ratana in the leg and the final shot injuring De Zoysa leaving him with a "severe and life-threatening injury".

Imran Khan KC, for the defence, said De Zoysa had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 13 and fired the gun because he was suffering from an "autistic meltdown".

At the opening of the trial at Northampton crown court on Wednesday, the jury was told how officers stopped De Zoysa as he was walking through Norbury, south London at about 1am on 25 September 2020 because of reports of burglaries in the area.

He was searched for 13 minutes and found to be carrying cannabis and seven rounds of ammunition. He was arrested, handcuffed and taken in a police van to Croydon police station, where Ratana worked as the custody sergeant.

"The police officers did not find that Louis de Zoysa was carrying a loaded revolver in a holster," Penny told the jury. "The gun and holster were probably concealed under one of his armpits."

Jurors were shown CCTV footage of the moment De Zoysa fired the gun in the custody room when asked to stand up by Ratana. In the minutes before the shooting he asked officers to "please leave" and was heard to say "this is it".

The prosecution alleged he was concealing the gun in his right hand and as he stood up, he twisted his body to the right and brought his hands, still handcuffed, around from behind to fire a shot directly at Ratana in front of him.

The two officers standing either side of him can be seen pulling him to the ground and shouting at him to "put it down", before he is tasered.

The gun is said to have been loaded with six rounds of live ammunition and been worn by De Zoysa in a holster around each arm and across his back when he was arrested.

"Louis must have been able to get hold of the gun after he was arrested and before he left the police van," Penny said.

The jury were shown police body-worn camera footage of De Zoysa's arrest, in which officers could be heard repeatedly asking him what he was carrying while searching him.

"All I’m concerned about at the moment is if you’ve got anything on you that's going to hurt me or you, any needles or razor blades?" asked the officer, Rich Davey, before De Zoysa replied: "No."

When they discovered the bullets he was carrying, De Zoysa said they were "militaria" that he used to "show off" and insisted "they’re not real".

Davey told De Zoysa: "I think there's more to this story than you’re letting on," before telling other officers: "I don't trust him at all."

The court heard that the defendant was 23 at the time of the shooting and living at a flat on a farm in Banstead, Surrey. He legally bought a working antique revolver at an online auction in June 2020, although bullets that fit the gun are no longer made.

Penny told the court how De Zoysa made bullets that fitted into the gun at home using primer, casing and lead balls, and alleged the defendant knew the gun worked with them.

As he appeared in the dock, De Zoysa used a wheelchair and his right arm was in a sling due to the injury he received in the shooting. He confirmed his name and date of birth by writing them on a whiteboard, and will be assisted by an intermediary during the trial.

The trial continues.