On Tuesday, May 4, the jury at Birmingham Crown Court was told West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk denies the murder and manslaughter of the 48-year-old former footballer, who played for a number of clubs, including Aston Villa, Manchester City, Ipswich Town, and Sheffield Wednesday.
Monk is alleged to have fired a Taser weapon at Atkinson for 33 seconds, or more than six times longer than the standard five-second phase, and while he was on the ground and apparently unresponsive, kicked him in the head twice with such force the imprint of Monk’s laces were left on Atkinson’s forehead.
Another officer, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, is charged with assault causing actual bodily harm, which she denies. She is alleged to have struck Atkinson with a baton while he was on the ground.
A jury at Birmingham crown court heard the prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC open the case against the 42-year-old officer, who was charged after a three-year inquiry into Mr. Atkinson’s death in 2016 in Telford, Shropshire,
She said concerned neighbours had called police, with Atkinson shouting and his behaviour described as bizarre and erratic. Monk had used a Taser stun gun on Atkinson twice without any obvious effect, and fired the electric stun gun a third time, which felled the former footballer to the ground in the street outside his father’s home.
Healy said: “PC Monk also proceeded to kick Dalian Atkinson. At least two kicks were delivered by him to Dalian Atkinson’s forehead with enough force to leave the imprints of the pattern of the laces from the top of his boot on two separate areas of Mr Atkinson’s forehead.
“A number of neighbours living in Meadow Close witnessed this attack. Their view was that once Dalian Atkinson had fallen to the ground he was unresponsive and still. He was no longer posing any threat to the officers. Nonetheless the two officers set about him.”
Healy said Atkinson had underlying health problems including end stage renal failure, and about 1.30am had gone to his father’s home in Meadow Close and his shouting in the street had awoken neighbours, who called the police.
The officers had knocked on the door of Atkinson’s father’s home. Atkinson had answered the door and claimed to be the messiah.
Healy said: “On the night of Sunday 14th and early hours of Monday 15th August 2016 Dalian Atkinson’s behaviour was disturbed and erratic.
“They were confronted with a man who was clearly acting in a disturbed and erratic way. They were entitled to use reasonable force to defend themselves or to protect another.
“The prosecution do not criticise their conduct prior to the discharge of the third Taser cartridge.
“However, when the deployment of the third cartridge was completely effective, causing Dalian Atkinson to experience neuromuscular incapacitation and fall to the ground, the prosecution say it was not reasonable to continue to depress the Taser for 33 seconds.
“In kicking Dalian Atkinson in the head not once, but on two separate occasions, PC Monk was not, the prosecution say, acting in self-defence or in defence of another. He was no doubt angry that he had been put in fear by this man.
“He chose to take that anger out on Dalian Atkinson by kicking him in the head. PC Monk was an experienced police officer. His training had taught him and it is obvious that the head is a sensitive area. In kicking Dalian Atkinson to the head PC Monk can only have intended to cause really serious injury.”
Healy told the jury that the former footballer was pronounced dead shortly afterwards: “An ambulance was called to the scene. Whilst this is a matter of routine when a Taser has been deployed, Dalian Atkinson had lost consciousness and was unresponsive before the ambulance arrived.
“Towards the end of the short ambulance journey to hospital Dalian Atkinson went into cardiac arrest. Despite the best efforts of the hospital staff who attempted to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at 2.45am.
“The pathologists and intensive care expert instructed by the prosecution agree that whilst his underlying health conditions meant that Dalian Atkinson was at a greatly increased risk of dying, were it not for the third Taser deployment and the kicks to his head, Dalian Atkinson would not have died that night.”
Monk’s colleague, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, is also facing trial charged with assault. She has pleaded not guilty to a charge alleging she assaulted Mr. Atkinson occasioning actual bodily harm before his death on August 15, 2016.
Addressing Bettley-Smith’s alleged role, Ms. Healy claimed the younger officer had struck Mr. Atkinson, whilst he was lying on the ground, a number of times with her baton.
The prosecutor added of Monk: “In kicking Dalian Atkinson in the head not once, but on two separate occasions, PC Monk was not, the prosecution say, acting in self-defence or in defence of another.
“He was no doubt angry that he had been put in fear by this man. He chose to take that anger out on Dalian Atkinson by kicking him in the head.
“His training will have taught him, and it is obvious, that the head is a sensitive area. In kicking Dalian Atkinson to the head PC Monk can only, the prosecution say, have only intended to cause really serious injury.”
The trial of the two police officers is being heard before a jury of 12 people with two alternates, and presided over by the recorder of Birmingham, Judge Melbourne Inman.
Atkinson achieved fame as a striker for Aston Villa football club, which is based in Birmingham. He retired from football in 2001.
The trial continues.