June 22, 2021

Atkinson appeared to stagger before taser was fired, jurors told

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Former football star Dalian Atkinson appeared to stagger and was almost running towards police shortly before he was tasered, a murder trial has heard.

On the fifth day of the trial of two police officers accused of unlawfully attacking the ex-Aston Villa striker, jurors were told a policeman ran away from him “as fast as he could” after an initial incident in Shropshire in August 2016.

Pc Benjamin Monk, 42, denies Mr Atkinson’s murder and manslaughter, while Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, denies a single count alleging she assaulted Atkinson near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford.

In evidence from the witness box at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday, Meadow Close resident David Lewis said he had not recognised a man he saw from his bedroom window in the early hours of August 15, but later learned that it was Atkinson.

PA - Dalian Atkinson in action for Aston Villa in 1994
Image: Atkinson in action for Aston Villa in 1994

Mr Lewis told the court Atkinson’s mood appeared to be very unstable before two police officers arrived at the scene.

The witness told jurors: “He (Atkinson) started to walk towards them. When they got to the end of the driveway, they ran down the road as if they were frightened of something.

“Dalian suddenly started to almost run – he suddenly changed his pace of walking.

“He was going from a slow walk to a much faster walk, which was almost a run.”

Although he did not see a Taser being discharged, Mr Lewis said, he saw Atkinson fall down, and a female officer later raising a baton above her head and bringing it down twice.

A statement made in October 2016 by Mr Lewis’s wife Janet, who has since passed away, was also read to the jury.

The statement, read to the court by prosecutor Paul Jarvis, described Atkinson as appearing to be “very agitated” as he kicked at his father’s front door.

Mrs Lewis recalled seeing the former Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town forward proceeding to “stagger about” before a Taser was pointed at him by a male officer who shouted “stand still, stand still or I will use my Taser”.

Quoting the statement, Mr Jarvis told the court: “Dalian however kept on moving towards the officers. I then watched as Dalian fell to the ground behind a car.”

PA - Aston Villa's Dalian Atkinson
Image: Atkinson died in August 2016 aged 48

According to Mrs Lewis’s statement, she heard a “hissing, crackling” sound for couple of seconds during the incident.

The court heard she then saw the male officer’s left arm and shoulder moving backwards and forwards, but stop suddenly as though he had kicked something.

“It was very similar to a footballer kicking a football with substantial force,” the statement added.

Describing the alleged actions of the female officer at the scene, Mrs Lewis added: “Even with my window closed I could hear the strikes administered with her baton impacting on Dalian’s body and clothing.”

One of the first two police officers to arrive after Mr Atkinson was Tasered told jurors how he helped to restrain him.

Pc Mark Bedford, who has since left the West Mercia force, said he heard Pc Monk tell paramedics that Atkinson “may be a bit bloody as I had to kick him”.

Giving evidence from the witness box, the former officer said he arrived at the scene in response to an “emergency activation” message seeking urgent assistance.

After he pulled up in Meadow Close, Mr Bedford said he saw Pc Bettley-Smith use a baton to deliver three strikes to Mr Atkinson.

Asked where the blows had landed, Mr Bedford replied: “Because the back was towards me and the strikes were in front of her, I couldn’t see. I would estimate around the waist.”

The ex-officer said he had seen Atkinson moving one of his hands slowly, apparently trying to grab the Taser’s wires.

As well as taking control of the ex-footballer’s right arm, Mr Bedford said, he believed he had used another officer’s handcuffs to restrain Atkinson.

During questioning from defence QC Patrick Gibbs, Mr Bedford was asked if the comment made by Monk about Atkinson being kicked to the head would have been useful information for paramedics to know.

Mr Bedford answered: “I would presume so. They would need to know the injuries he had got.”

The trial continues.