Dalian Atkinson: officer accused of assault ‘lashed out’, court told

A police officer accused of assaulting Dalian Atkinson, the former footballer who died after being Tasered by police, likely “lashed out, perhaps in anger”, a court has heard.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 32, of West Mercia police, is on trial accused of assaulting Atkinson in Telford in August 2016, when she struck him with her baton three times while he lay on the ground after being shot with a stun gun by another officer.

Atkinson, 48, who played for clubs including Aston Villa, was pronounced dead in hospital 90 minutes later.

PC Benjamin Monk, who Tasered Atkinson for 33 seconds and kicked his head while he lay in the road, was convicted of manslaughter at a trial in June last year.

At the same trial, the jury was unable to decide whether Bettley-Smith was guilty of assault and she is now facing a retrial.

Monk, who was in a relationship with Bettley-Smith at the time, was heard shouting to her “fucking hit him” during the incident, the court was told.

Paul Jarvis, prosecuting, said at the opening of the trial at Birmingham crown court on Tuesday: “Bettley-Smith unlawfully struck Atkinson more than once with her baton to the back of his body as he lay on the ground, thereby causing bruising that amounted to actual bodily harm.”

Bettley-Smith, who was a probationary officer at the time, is not accused of being responsible for Atkinson’s death, but the prosecution argues her strikes were unlawful.

The defendant does not deny hitting Atkinson, but claims she “genuinely believed that Atkinson posed a threat to her and to Monk at the time she hit him”, the prosecution said.

Atkinson, who retired from football in 2001, had a number of serious health conditions in the years leading up to his death. He was on dialysis for end-stage kidney failure and, unknown to him, had high blood pressure and heart disease.

On the night of his death, his “mind was disturbed” and he “was not acting like himself”, the jury was told.

Atkinson drove to his family home in Telford, where he kicked the front door and shouted “fucking let me in”, waking neighbours who called the police, the jury heard.

Once inside, he grabbed his father, Ernest Atkinson, by the throat, accused him of killing family members and said he was the messiah, the prosecution said.

Jarvis said that when police officers arrived at the scene, Atkinson emerged from the house and walked towards them saying: “You’re going to Taser me. I’m the messiah, I’m the messiah. You cannot hurt me.”

After using a stun gun on him, Monk kicked Atkinson in the head with enough force to leave impressions of his shoelaces, the court was told, while Bettley-Smith was seen taking out her extendable baton and hitting him.

“It is likely that Bettley-Smith lashed out, perhaps in anger at the fact Atkinson had scared her so much, or perhaps because Monk told her to because he was himself angry with Atkinson,” Jarvis told the court. “Either way, when she hit him, she was not trying to defend either herself or Monk, or trying to arrest Atkinson.”

She later told police she hit him “with as much force as she could muster” as Atkinson was trying to get on his hands and knees while shouting and swearing, the jury was told.

Richard Smith KC, defending, said Atkinson was moving on the ground and “still posed a threat”, adding that Bettley-Smith’s use of her baton “was reasonable” to protect herself and restrain him.

The trial continues.