Dalian Atkinson: PC defends using baton on ex-footballer

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith told the court she used a baton "to try to gain control of the situation"

A police constable has said it was absolutely necessary to hit former footballer Dalian Atkinson with her baton after he had been tasered.

PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, told a jury she did it to protect herself and her colleague.

She denies a charge of assault and said she was terrified during the incident in Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016.

Her colleague, PC Benjamin Monk, denies murdering Mr Atkinson and also denies an alternative manslaughter charge.

The prosecution alleges West Mercia Police probationary constable Bettley-Smith acted unlawfully after Mr Atkinson had been tasered by PC Monk outside his father's house in Meadow Close, Trench.

Giving evidence in the sixth week of a trial at Birmingham Crown Court, PC Bettley-Smith said "I recall that he opened the front door and was there, this huge figure. He appeared very, very angry - probably the angriest person I have ever seen in my life."

She added: "I remember his eyes bulging out of his head. His chest was puffed up ... his stance made me think he was ready to fight."

PC Bettley-Smith, a social work graduate who joined the force in February 2015, said she had pressed an emergency alarm button for urgent help, because she believed the situation to be life-threatening.

"I said in my interview that my life flashed before my eyes and that is no exaggeration - I was absolutely terrified," she said.

image copyrightCrown Prosecution Service
image captionDalian Atkinson, who played for Aston Villa, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday died aged 48 on 15 August 2016

After Mr Atkinson - who played for Aston Villa, Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday - was tasered and fell to the ground she said she hit him three times with her baton, aiming at his thighs, to prevent him from getting back up.

She told the jury: "It was at this point when I decided I needed to strike Mr Atkinson with my baton. Unless it was absolutely necessary, I would never have used my baton that night.

"I struck him to prevent him from getting up and protect myself and Ben.

"If he was successful in getting up, I genuinely thought he would seriously hurt me."

Ms Bettley-Smith told the court she still felt overwhelming sadness at Mr Atkinson's death.

image copyrightReuters
image captionMr Atkinson had a number of pre-existing conditions at the time of his death, including kidney disease and an enlarged heart

Asked how she felt when she learned of his death on returning to the police station, she said: "Terrible. I felt really, really upset that that was the outcome.

"But I was also very aware and conscious of the fact that it could have been very different and it could have been myself or Ben or Mr Ernest Atkinson [Dalian's father]."

Under cross-examination from prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC, Ms Bettley-Smith denied exaggerating her account to justify the use of excessive force by PC Monk, with whom she was in a relationship.

The officer also denied trying to "help" PC Monk by changing her account, or by agreeing to "fudge" what was said about kicks to Mr Atkinson's head.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionProsecutors allege PC Benjamin Monk used unlawful force when he arrested Mr Atkinson in 2016

The court has previously heard PC Monk used a Taser on Mr Atkinson for 33 seconds after the first two attempts to use a Taser on him failed.

He also admitted he kicked Mr Atkinson but said it was not-targeted and "instinctive". He has challenged witness accounts that he then rested his boot on the sportsman's head.

The trial continues.

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