Dalian Atkinson: Police officers 'colluded' after ex-footballer's death

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFormer Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson died due to cardio-respiratory arrest in 2016 in Telford, Shropshire, at the age of 48

Two police officers "colluded" in their account of what happened after the death of an ex-footballer, a court has heard.

PC Benjamin Monk is on trial charged with murdering former Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson in Telford in 2016.

Prosecutors claim he and PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who is charged with assault, used excessive force. Both deny the charges.

Mr Atkinson was Tasered, kicked and hit with a baton, the jury heard.

Prosecutors at Birmingham Crown Court said the similarity of the officers' accounts was "indicative" they had discussed how "to account for their unlawful attack on an unarmed man".

Mr Atkinson, 48, died in the early hours of 15 August 2016 after the officers responded to reports of him acting erratically outside his father's house in Meadow Close, Telford.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionMary Ellen Bettley-Smith (L) and Benjamin Monk (R) responded to a call-out to Mr Atkinson's father's address in Telford in 2016

Jurors heard Mr Atkinson had ripped out his dialysis line shortly before he was confronted by the officers.

On Tuesday, the court was told Mr Atkinson, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, was Tasered for 33 seconds - six times longer than is standard - and had been kicked at least twice in the head by PC Monk, leaving the imprint of bootlaces.

Mr Atkinson later died from cardio-respiratory arrest.

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC said both officers had been interviewed under caution on 26 August 2016, and in January 2017.

PC Monk, 42, had said the officers arrived to hear a "large row" and Mr Atkinson's behaviour made him "fearful for himself, his partner and whoever was in the property".

Mr Atkinson was said to answer the door in "a rage" and claiming to be the Messiah, and when presented with the Taser said, 'I am going to take you to the gates of hell'," Ms Healy said.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMr Atkinson had been suffering with high blood pressure, heart disease and end-stage renal failure at the time of his death, the court heard

After two Taser cartridges had failed, a third one was successfully deployed and left Mr Atkinson unconscious.

Patrick Gibbs QC, defending PC Monk, said the officer believed Mr Atkinson was trying to get up.

Mr Gibbs said the officer did not dispute kicking the ex-footballer twice in the head, but did so while he was "terrified".

Richard Smith QC, PC Bettley-Smith's barrister, said the 31-year-old maintained her use of the baton was "lawful", adding: "She genuinely believed, in the heat of the moment, in the circumstances she found herself in, that the use of that baton was necessary and reasonable."

image copyrightHelen Tipper
image captionBoth officers deny the charges against them

Earlier that night, Mr Atkinson had been acting out of character, his partner Karen Wright said, and had borrowed her car to drive to his father's house.

It followed a few weeks where he was "quite convinced that he was going to be killed" either by the NHS or police, she said.

She rang him at about 01:30 BST, at which time Mr Atkinson was at his father's home.

Asked if she could hear anything else, Ms Wright said: "I heard the sound of the door opening and then a third voice and then Dalian left the phone on, and I could hear him say 'do you know who you're speaking to?'.

"It wasn't to me, it was to somebody else."

The call then went dead, she said.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionKenroy Atkinson, the brother of former footballer Dalian Atkinson, was seen arriving at Birmingham Crown Court

Barbara Wynne, a neighbour of Mr Atkinson's father, who gave evidence to the hearing, had called 999 after she and her husband Mark were awoken by a "car horn" and vehicle lights.

In a recording of the call, played to court, she was heard telling the operator: "I'm not sure what actually happened but I just heard some noise... there's a car pulled up outside an old man's house and there's somebody shouting.

"Then he went back to his car, then went back to the door - kicked it.

"And he said to the bloke 'you better let me in'."

She told the operator "the bloke seemed scared", adding: "He's gone in - I'm a little worried."

The court also heard a pathologist had examined Mr Atkinson's injuries but "no typical defence wounds" were noted to his hands or forearms.

image copyrightITFC
image captionDalian Atkinson started his career in Ipswich in the 1980s

A pathologist recorded a narrative cause of death, Ms Healy told the court, which found Mr Atkinson died due to cardio-respiratory arrest, "close in time to the deployment of Taser, followed by a brief period of restraint and blunt force trauma".

All three of the prosecution's medical experts, the court heard, agreed that while Mr Atkinson's enlarged heart meant that he could have died at any time, the prolonged period of Tasering and the kicks to his head made a "significant contribution" to his death.

Ms Wright, who had been in a relationship with Mr Atkinson for eight years, said he was due to check in to a hospital the following day for treatment and that night had pulled out a dialysis line in agitation.

Mr Gibbs told jurors the medical evidence in this case was "multi factorial" and possibly "the most medically complex forensic pathology case" the pathologist had dealt with.

Concluding her opening speech, Ms Healy said the jury would have to consider whether PC Monk had intended to cause really serious injury.

"The prosecution say that once that last Taser deployment had been totally effective, causing Dalian Atkinson to fall to the ground as a result of neuromuscular incapacitation... the officers were no longer acting in self-defence," she said.

"Rather they acted in anger as a result of the fear that Dalian Atkinson had just put them through.

PC Monk denies murder as well as an alternative charge of manslaughter. PC Bettley-Smith denies assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The trial continues.

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