The police officer shot dead by a handcuffed suspect in a custody suite worked there because he thought it was safer as he neared ­
his retirement.

Tributes have poured in for Sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54.

He died after the 23-year-old suspect opened fire at Croydon Custody Centre in south London on Friday.

Investigators are looking into how the gunman – being held for possessing ammunition and class B drugs – accessed the weapon.

A friend of Sgt Ratana, who was known as Matt, said the officer thought working in the custody suite would be a safer role as he neared the end of his long police career.

Neil Donohue said: “He thought it was his safest option just to see him through to his ­retirement and no-one expected this to happen – certainly not within the police cells.”

Tributes have poured in for Sergeant Matiu Ratana

He described the officer as “the most nicest, generous man you could meet”, and said he was “just a really genuinely nice guy”.

Sgt Ratana was originally from New Zealand and joined the force in 1991. His cousin Adrian Rurawhe, a politician in his homeland, said his relative was a “natural-born leader”.

He added: “We’re all devastated that we’ve lost our cousin, but also to hear about the way he has been killed.”

Met Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, who with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, led police officers across the capital in a minute’s silence on Friday, described Sgt Ratana as a “talented police officer”.

The suspect opened fire at Croydon Custody Centre

The suspect also shot himself during the incident, which is not believed to be terror-related.

He was last night in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

No police firearms were fired and the case is not being treated as terror-related.

The Met sergeant is the 17th from the force to be killed by a firearm since the end of the Second World War, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honour.