Shortly before 9 p.m., Matiu Ratana left the training field at his rugby club to go to his night shift as the sergeant of the custody suite.
The inspiring policeman had thrown himself into the coaching and was looking forward to being able to fully concentrate on promoting future rugby stars after his retirement.
Six hours later, his life and hopes were stolen from him in the cruelest way imaginable.
He was shot dead at close range on duty in a police building where he should have been safe.
Sergeant Ratana, whose job it was to look after the care and welfare of the detainees, died in hospital.
He was formerly a protection officer for Princess Diana, the Queen Mother, and former Prime Minister John Major.
And in 1992, the hero officer was less than 300 yards from an IRA car bomb that exploded off 10 Downing Street, The Mirror reports.
The 54-year-old father immigrated to the UK from New Zealand in 1989 and had been with the Metropolitan Police Service for nearly 30 years. Friends said he was incredibly proud of his job and would do anything to help the people in the community.
A year after his retirement, the inspiring police officer (pictured) had plunged into coaching and was looking forward to being able to fully concentrate on promoting future rugby stars
As a man's bear, the rugby-mad striker was thrown into the deep end of London's dark underbelly, first in Hackney and later in Croydon, where he died yesterday morning. Friends say he devoted his life to power but had a keen sense of humor away from work and would leave friends in fits of laughter.
After moving to Worthing, West Sussex, six years ago, Mr Ratana took the position of head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club and helped the youth develop their game.
He had been an outstanding player himself and had even stood out among many other London clubs as a professional Londoner Irishman. He learned the game at Palmerston North Boys High School, which produced a number of All Blacks.
Three years after arriving in the UK, he married Teresa Conway in Slough and the couple had a son, Luke, the following year.
They later separated and his ex-wife and son are said to have emigrated to Australia. Friends said Mr. Ratana stayed very close to Luke.
After moving to Worthing, West Sussex, six years ago, Matiu Ratana took on the position of head coach of East Grinstead Rugby Club and helped the youth develop their game
He's been in a relationship with Sue Bushby for the past four years. Her sister Amanda Tessier said Miss Bushby was devastated by the news and comforted by friends.
Describing Mr. Ratana, she said: “He was a big, kind, kind bear of a man, one of the most beautiful men to meet.
“He was keen to be a police officer and had almost 30 years of service.
“He knew the dangers of being a cop in London and he'd talked about it, but it was all part of the job for him.
We lost another hero, says PC's widow
Constable Andrew Harper's widow spoke yesterday of her grief that "another hero" had been killed at the front.
Lissie Harper, pictured with her late husband, said she was broken over the death of Sgt Matiu Ratana, adding, "You are protecting us, but who is protecting you?"
The 29-year-old was married to Mr Harper, a Thames Valley official, for just four weeks when he was killed by a gang of three teenage thieves in August 2019.
She said, “This is devastating news. Nobody should go to work to never return. No man should be deprived of his life in a barbaric crime. Another hero was taken from us in unjustified violence. They protect us, but who is protecting them? Another life has passed in a shameful act that reminds us of the danger our cops face with each shift they begin. "
Harper, 28, was killed by a group of teenagers in a fast moving getaway car that dragged him for more than a mile on country roads near Sulhamstead, Berkshire.
“It was something he was trained and used to. He was such a lovely guy. We just can't believe it. How did someone have a gun in the police station? "
The flowers were left outside the Croydon Detention Center yesterday.
Among those paying tribute was Paul, 27, who was trained by Mr. Ratana in East Grinstead.
He said, “The man was a machine. He was a leader among men. He'd train us straight to work like he'd done last night.
“He left the training session around 9pm last night. He was such an inspiration. He's helped our club so much.
“Many years ago we lost our funding and he fought with all his might for the club and really lifted us up. As players, we were like brothers. He was so alive, larger than life, that he was the guy everyone just wanted to have a beer with. "
Glenn and Debbie Stobart lived next to Ratana in Coulsdon in south London for a few years before moving to Worthing.
Ms. Stobart, a close friend, said: “He was a fantastic man. He always helped others. If you were concerned about anything, he would answer your concern.
“He was so caring, funny, everyone knew him. He was a really great character.
The first day he moved into the area he came and knocked on the door and introduced himself and everyone got to know him from then on. He loved his job and was a police officer. He was so proud to serve the church.
“Looking forward to retirement next year, unsure of what to do with all that free time, he got into rugby even more. He loved helping the children and it gave him a real purpose. "
Holding back tears when speaking of his killer, she added, “You should throw away the key.
“How could someone come to a police station with a gun? It asks for faith. "
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