PC feared he was ‘going to die’ during Dalian Atkinson encounter, court told

The police officer accused of the murder of former professional footballer Dalian Atkinson has told a jury he was “terrified” he and his colleague “were going to die” during the encounter.

Jun 2, 2021
By Website Editor
West Mercia Police constable Benjamin Monk arrives at Birmingham Crown Court.

Prosecutors claim West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, used unlawful and unreasonable force during a final 33-second firing of the Taser, and by then kicking former Aston Villa star in the head.

Jurors have heard three Taser cartridges were deployed by Monk before Mr Atkinson, who later died in hospital, was handcuffed near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of August 15, 2016.

Giving evidence for the first time in his defence at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, PC Monk said he felt “a big relief” when Mr Atkinson was floored after being Tasered the third time.

Two previous Taser strikes had been ineffective, he told the jury, leaving him with his third, and final, cartridge. PC Monk said Mr Atkinson allegedly told him, during the incident, that “you can put 100,000 volts through me, I’m the f****** messiah – your Taser won’t work and now I’m going to take you to the gates of hell”.

Asked how he felt after the second Taser strike failed, the officer of then 14 years’ service, said: “I remember just thinking, ‘we’re done for’.”

When Patrick Gibbs QC, Monk’s barrister, asked the officer what he did next, he replied: “Ran for my life – we ran away”, something he told jurors he had never done in his entire career.

The 43-year-old said: “He [Mr Atkinson] was very, very scary. And the device which I thought might work for me, hadn’t worked and I was terrified.”

PC Monk and a junior colleague, with whom he was in a relationship at the time, PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, backed away from Atkinson, in the residential close, while waiting for more officers to arrive. By this time, Mr Atkinson had smashed the glass in the front door of the property belonging to his father.

Both officers had been sent to the address in Meadow Close, after members of the public called 999, soon after Mr Atkinson arrived, reporting a concern for the welfare of the elderly occupant.

During the course of the first two failed Taser strikes, PC Bettley-Smith called for back-up, activating her emergency button, calling all available units to the location.

PC Monk then described hearing one of the back-up units radioing to tell the pair they were still “six minutes” away.

He said: “That is a transmission I definitely remember, because it struck absolute fear in me to think the nearest crew was so far away.”

PC Monk said, having backed away into the street, he Tasered Mr Atkinson a third time, and this time the ex-football star “stopped moving towards me and seemed to stop where he was”. He added: “He fell to the floor. I know he timbered, but I can’t say if it was from standing.”

Asked how he felt in that moment, Monk replied: “The fear I had when he was coming towards me knowing I was on the last (Taser) cartridge, and everything else had failed.

“In concert with that, if this cartridge didn’t work, Ellie [PC Bettley-Smith], me, the gentleman inside the house, were potentially done for – so the fact it worked it was a big relief.”

PC Monk said he had “very much so” considered running from Mr Atkinson, leading him away from the close, but said: “We had to protect the man inside the house.”

With Mr Atkinson now on the ground, PC Monk said the former Villa striker started “plucking” at his clothing, which the constable felt was an attempt to free the Taser’s electricity barbs, in order to get back up.

At that point, he recalled PC Bettley-Smith coming across and “she delivered some baton strikes to the lower area of Mr Atkinson’s legs”.

PC Monk said Mr Atkinson was then trying to get into a “position where he’s about to right himself. His left palm was flat on the floor and that gave me the genuine belief Mr Atkinson was trying to get up,” he added.

Asked what he did, PC Monk told the court: “I kicked him.”

The court has already heard evidence that Monk’s boot connected with Mr Atkinson’s head, but the officer said that at the time he believed he had kicked the 48-year-old “in the shoulder”.

PC Monk said: “There wasn’t an intention to kick him anywhere, it was an instinctive act, a desperate, instinctive act because this was the last thing I had. I believe, in my interview, I said my intention was to kick him in the shoulder but it’s more realistic to say that it was instinctive. I wanted Mr Atkinson to stop getting up because I thought if he’s going to get up, we were going to die.”

The court has previously heard that Taser-trained PC Monk had depressed the weapon’s trigger for 33 seconds, during the third strike.

When asked if he had been conscious of doing so in evidence, he replied: “Absolutely not. Absolutely not.”

PC Monk had previously only drawn his Taser five times prior to the fatal incident; once in 2010 and on four occasions in 2016 – but had, at no time, fired the device on any of those previous four incidences, jurors have heard.

PC Monk also denied telling his colleague PC Bettley-Smith to, as one eyewitness described, “f****** hit him” in reference to Mr Atkinson, while the ex-sportsman was lying on the floor, having been Tasered the third and final time.

PC Monk is alleged to have intended to cause really serious injury to Mr Atkinson, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, after those two initial uses of the Taser proved ineffective.

PC Bettley-Smith, 31, is also on trial, and denies a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, by using her force-issue extendable baton.

The trial continues.

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