Custody sergeant murder accused tells court he fired gun during ‘panic attack’

Louis De Zoysa denies killing Sergeant Matt Ratana at a custody block in south London in September 2020.

A man who allegedly murdered a Metropolitan Police custody sergeant by shooting him dead told a court that he did not mean to fire the gun and was having a “panic attack” at the time.

Louis De Zoysa, 25, is accused of the murder of Sergeant Matt Ratana, 54, at a custody block in Croydon, south London, on September 25 2020 while he was handcuffed.

The prosecution alleges De Zoysa, who denies murder, “pulled the trigger on purpose four times” while he was handcuffed in a holding room at the custody centre, the first and second shots hitting Sgt Ratana, the third hitting the wall during a struggle with officers, and a fourth hitting De Zoysa himself.

Imran Khan KC, defending, asked De Zoysa if he accepted that he fired the gun.

The defendant, giving evidence in a modified way at Northampton Crown Court on Wednesday, because of communication difficulties caused by brain damage due to a gunshot wound, replied: “Yes.”

Louis de Zoysa court case
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Louis De Zoysa at Northampton Crown Court charged with the murder of Matt Ratana (Elizabeth Cook/ PA)

Mr Khan asked De Zoysa: “Did you mean to fire the gun?”

The defendant replied: “No.”

The barrister asked: “Did you want to fire the gun?”, to which De Zoysa also replied: “No.”

Mr Khan asked De Zoysa: “Can you tell us why you fired the gun, Louis?”

The defendant replied: “Panic attack.”

Mr Khan previously told the jury that the defendant was suffering an autistic meltdown at the time of the shooting.

Louis de Zoysa court case
Sergeant Matt Ratana (Metropolitan Police/ PA)

At the end of the evidence session the defendant, who sat in a wheelchair and was escorted by police officers, appeared to shake for several seconds before he was taken for a break.

Earlier, he had been shown CCTV footage of his arrest in London Road, Norbury, south London, during the early hours of September 25 2020.

In the footage, De Zoysa, of Banstead, Surrey, was carrying a brown bag and an officer told him there had been a “lot of burglaries in the area, it’s half one in the morning, you’re walking down the road with a duffel bag”.

The officer said he wanted to search De Zoysa as he believed he “may be equipped for a burglary”.

In the footage, De Zoysa tells the officer: “I’m going to confess, in that bag is non-medical cannabis.”

In court, the defendant wrote the word “freeze” on a whiteboard, and pressed his chest and said: “Beating fast.”

He also said “fear” and “panic”.

In court, Mr Khan asked De Zoysa: “Why didn’t you tell them about the gun?”

The defendant replied: “Anxious.”

Officers did not know De Zoysa had a gun until it was used to shoot Sgt Ratana.

Shown footage of himself in a custody cell, De Zoysa was asked how he was feeling at the time and he replied: “Stuttery.”

The trial will continue from 9.30am on Thursday with prosecution cross-examination of the defendant.

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