image captionFormer Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson died due to cardio-respiratory arrest in 2016 in Telford, Shropshire, at the age of 48
A PC who Tasered an ex-footballer said he deployed the weapon after the sportsman threatened to “take him to the gates of hell”, a court heard.
PC Benjamin Monk is on trial charged with murdering Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson in Shropshire in 2016.
Prosecutors claim he and PC Mary-Ellen Bettley-Smith, who is charged with assault, used excessive force.
Both deny wrongdoing and their defence argue the force was “necessary” as they believed Mr Atkinson posed a threat.
The 48-year-old died in the early hours of 15 August 2016 after the officers responded to reports of him acting erratically outside his father’s house in Meadow Close, Telford.
image captionMary Ellen Bettley-Smith (L) and Benjamin Monk (R) responded to a call-out to Mr Atkinson’s father’s address in Telford in 2016
Earlier that night, Mr Atkinson had been acting out of character, his partner Karen Wright said, and had borrowed her car to drive to his father’s house.
It followed a few weeks where he was “quite convinced that he was going to be killed” either by the NHS or police, she said.
She rang him at about 01:30 BST, at which time Mr Atkinson was at his father’s home.
Asked if she could hear anything else, Ms Wright said: “I heard the sound of the door opening and then a third voice and then Dalian left the phone on, and I could hear him say ‘do you know who you’re speaking to?’.
“It wasn’t to me, it was to somebody else.”
The call then went dead, she said.
image captionBoth officers deny the charges against them
Barbara Wynne, a neighbour of Mr Atkinson’s father, who gave evidence to the hearing, had called 999 after she and her husband Mark were awoken by a “car horn” and vehicle lights.
In a recording of the call, played to court, she was heard telling the operator: “I’m not sure what actually happened but I just heard some noise… there’s a car pulled up outside an old man’s house and there’s somebody shouting.
“Then he went back to his car, then went back to the door – kicked it.
“And he said to the bloke ‘you better let me in’.”
She told the operator “the bloke seemed scared”, adding: “He’s gone in – I’m a little worried.”
image captionDalian Atkinson started his career in Ipswich in the 1980s
Prosecution QC Alexandra Healy told Birmingham Crown Court that in an interview under caution after the incident, PC Monk had said the officers arrived to hear a “large row” and Mr Atkinson’s behaviour made him “fearful for himself, his partner and whoever was in the property”.
Mr Atkinson was said to answer the door in “a rage” and claiming to be the Messiah, and when presented with the Taser said, ‘I am going to take you to the gates of hell’,” Ms Healy continued, paraphrasing PC Monk’s interview.
Defending PC Monk, Patrick Gibbs QC said the officer was “terrified”.
After two previous Taser cartridges had failed, a third one was successfully deployed and left Mr Atkinson, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, unconscious – but Mr Gibbs said the defendant believed he was trying to get up.
On Tuesday, jurors heard PC Monk, 42, had Tasered Mr Atkinson for six times longer than standard and kicked him in the head with such force, imprints of his bootlaces were left.
image captionIn interviews under caution, PC Benjamin Monk said he kicked Mr Atkinson just once to restrain him
“Delivering two forceful kicks to Mr Atkinson’s head cannot have been an act in reasonable self defence,” prosecutors said.
“It is is difficult, isn’t it, to see how a kick to the head could ever be a reasonable act taken to prevent Mr Atkinson from getting up.”
In his interviews, Ms Healy recounted PC Monk admitted to a single kick “to enable him to control and restrain Mr Atkinson” but the officer believed he struck his shoulder.
However in court Mr Gibbs said it was “not in dispute” that the officer had kicked Mr Atkinson twice in the head.
“What is in dispute is why did he do that?,” Mr Gibbs said. “He has always said he was terrified and that Mr Atkinson, after that third Taser had been effective, initially at least, he was trying to get up.”
Meanwhile, PC Bettley-Smith is alleged to have used her baton to strike Mr Atkinson in the back while he lay incapacitated in the road.
Her defence barrister, Richard Smith QC, told jurors the officer believed her actions to be “necessary and reasonable as part of her and Mr Monk’s continuing efforts to restrain and detain an unpredictable and threateningly violent man as she perceived him to be”.
The court also heard a pathologist had examined Mr Atkinson’s injuries but “no typical defence wounds” were noted to his hands or forearms.
image captionKenroy Atkinson, the brother of former footballer Dalian Atkinson, was seen arriving at Birmingham Crown Court
A pathologist recorded a narrative cause of death, Ms Healy told the court, which found Mr Atkinson died due to cardio-respiratory arrest, “close in time to the deployment of Taser, followed by a brief period of restraint and blunt force trauma”.
All three of the prosecution’s medical experts, the court heard, agreed that while Mr Atkinson’s enlarged heart meant that he could have died at any time, the prolonged period of Tasering and the kicks to his head made a “significant contribution” to his death.
Ms Wright, who had been in a relationship with Mr Atkinson for eight years, said he was due to check in to a hospital the following day for treatment and that night had pulled out a dialysis line in agitation.
Mr Gibbs told jurors the medical evidence in this case was “multi factorial” and possibly “the most medically complex forensic pathology case” the pathologist had dealt with.
image captionMr Atkinson had been suffering with high blood pressure, heart disease and end-stage renal failure at the time of his death, the court heard
The prosecution concluded its opening statement by making its case that the police officers ceased acting in self-defence after the third Taser cartridge was discharged, “rather they acted in anger”.
Ms Healy also said that similarities in the accounts of PC Monk and PC Bettley-Smith suggested “the two officers discussed between themselves how best to account for what they knew was an unlawful attack on an unarmed man” – a claim denied by the defence.
The defence also denied any suggestion the officers acted in fear or anger, instead arguing their actions were “necessary and reasonable in the face of Mr Atkinson’s actions”.
PC Monk denies murder as well as an alternative charge of manslaughter. PC Bettley-Smith, 31, denies assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The trial continues.
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