The death of a police sergeant inside a south London station is a reminder of the importance of officers to society, the son of an RUC man gunned down by the Provisional IRA has said.
When Louie Johnston heard of the death of Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana, shot dead by a handcuffed suspect inside Croydon station last week, his thoughts immediately turned to his family and the pain they are going through.
“You are just reminded of the nature of their job and how important police are to society,” said Louie yesterday on National Police Memorial Day. “Immediately my thoughts were drawn to the family and what they must be going through.”
Louie was just seven when his 30-year-old father, David, from Lisburn, was shot dead at Church Walk in Lurgan, only yards from the town’s RUC station. He died along with colleague, John Graham.
They were the last RUC officers killed by the PIRA, among more than 300 who lost their lives during the Troubles.
Prince Charles led the tributes to fallen officers in a virtual ceremony that also featured remarks by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Louie, flanked by Chief Constable Simon Byrne, lit a candle in memory of officers at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.
In a video message, Charles said: “The dreadful incident in Croydon on Friday is the latest heartbreaking evidence of the risks faced by our officers daily.
“I would like to send my deepest sympathy to the families of each of these officers who have given their lives.
“These are losses we can never replace, sacrifices we can never repay, but of which, as a society, we can only strive to be worthy.”
Louie said the national day is an opportunity for all to come together to remember the sacrifices made by officers.
“These were ordinary people who happen to be wearing a type of clothing that day they died,” said Louie, now 31 and older than his father when he died. “It is also important for the new generations to realise the duty and dedication of officers, and an opportunity to say thank you.”
Louie has said his father “was my hero”, someone who was “much more than a uniform”.
“He took me fishing. He took me to the cinema. He was the best dad in the world and still is,” he said.
Lissie Harper, wife of PC Andrew Harper of Thames Valley Police, who died in August 2019 aged 28, lit a candle for England
Rebecca Davies, daughter of PC Terry Davies of Gwent Police, who died in August 1990 aged 34, lit the flame for Wales.
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone lit the candle in Scotland.
Charles said officers have met the “invisible threat” of coronavirus with “visible courage and commitment” and provided a “calm reassurance that has been so essential to our communities day and night”.
He added: “I can only say to all the families, friends and colleagues of fallen officers – and to every serving officer throughout the United Kingdom – that you and your loved ones will always have a very special place in the heart of our nation.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the fallen officers who “represent the very best of us” and show “extraordinary courage” by going towards danger rather than away.
He described the “terrible killing” in Croydon a reminder of the risks police officers face every day. “They laid down their lives to prevent us from coming to harm and we owe them a huge debt,” the Prime Minister added.