Dalian Atkinson: Ex-footballer threatened to take police officer ‘to gates of hell’, court told

A police officer accused of murdering Dalian Atkinson said the ex-footballer threatened to take him "to the gates of hell", a court has heard.

PC Benjamin Monk, 42, made the claim as he told investigators he had kicked Atkinson to "control and restrain" him when he fell to the ground after being tasered.

Monk denies murder and manslaughter, while PC Ellen Bettley-Smith denies assault.

The trial at Birmingham Crown Court has heard how Mr Atkinson, who played for clubs including Aston Villa and Ipswich, went into cardiac arrest and died after a Taser was used on him for 33 seconds – six times longer than normal.

On Wednesday, prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC summarised Monk’s explanation to investigators about the incident in Telford in the early hours of 15 August 2016.

"He described how when he was approaching (Mr Atkinson’s father’s house) he was aware of a very loud row taking place within the property, with one voice much louder than the other," she told the court.

"He explained that when Mr Atkinson appeared at the doorway of the house he was in an obvious rage and said: ‘This is the Messiah’.

"He said he produced the Taser, but Mr Atkinson, who PC Monk did not know, was apparently unconcerned when presented with the Taser, saying: ‘I am going to take you to the gates of hell’.

"PC Monk was, he said, fearful for himself, his partner and whoever was in (the property)," the prosecutor added.

Monk told investigators – during interviews under caution – that he had fired his Taser when Mr Atkinson stepped towards him.

"This was wholly ineffective and so he told PC Bettley-Smith, who by this stage had pressed the emergency button on her radio, to run," Ms Healy told jurors.

"After what must have been, he said, a short time, Mr Atkinson stopped running and so they, the officers, therefore also stopped running."

Monk told investigators that Mr Atkinson swore at him, walked back towards the house and punched through the front door glass.

The prosecutor added: "Because of that, concerned for the occupants of the address, PC Monk deployed the Taser for a second time. Again, it was wholly ineffective."

Monk said Mr Atkinson, 48, rested on a bollard after the second taser attempt.

"Mr Monk said he loaded the third and final cartridge into his Taser and Mr Atkinson walked towards him, talking again of taking him to the ‘gates of hell’," said Ms Healy.

"PC Monk then discharged the Taser once more and on this occasion it was, in his words, ‘completely effective’.

"He said Mr Atkinson went ‘rigid’ with neuromuscular incapacitation and he fell forward. He said had that Taser not worked ‘we were completely done for’."

Prosecutors allege that both police officers were angry by the time of the third Taser shot.

"Mr Atkinson was leaning on his right arm and brushing his chest in an apparent attempt to clear the Taser barbs and trying, he said, to get up," said Ms Healy.

The prosecutor said at this point Bettley-Smith hit him in the legs with her baton, which allegedly failed to subdue him, so Monk kicked him – claiming it was "to control and then restrain Mr Atkinson".

Jurors were told they would have to decide if Monk had intended to cause really serious injury.

Also, Ms Healy said, they must weigh up if the lengthy Taser use "and/or the at least two kicks to the head" significantly contributed to the death.

She told the court: "The prosecution say that once that last Taser deployment had been totally effective, causing Dalian Atkinson to fall to the ground as a result of neuromuscular incapacitation… the officers were no longer acting in self-defence.

"Rather they acted in anger as a result of the fear that Dalian Atkinson had just put them through.

"Having been afraid earlier, they were angry about it," the prosecution said.

"Delivering two forceful kicks to Mr Atkinson’s head cannot have been an act in reasonable self-defence.

"It is difficult to see how a kick to the head could ever be a reasonable act taken to prevent Mr Atkinson from getting up."

The prosecution also claims the defendants discussed how to explain their actions before giving their version of events.

Monk’s lawyer, Patrick Gibbs QC, said his client did not dispute kicking Mr Atkinson twice in the head – but did so because he was "terrified".

He told the jury: "What is in dispute is why did he do that?

"He has always said he was terrified and that Mr Atkinson, after that third Taser (use) had been effective, initially at least, he was trying to get up."

He urged jurors to keep an open mind until they had heard all the evidence.

Mr Gibbs said the ex-footballer’s death was "multi-factorial" and the medical evidence "amongst the most complex, if not the most medically complex, forensic pathology case" that the pathologist had encountered.

Richard Smith QC, Bettley-Smith’s barrister, told the court she "continues to say that the use of the baton by her was lawful".

He said she "genuinely believed, in the heat of the moment, in the circumstances she found herself in, that the use of that baton was necessary and reasonable".

Mr Atkinson’s former partner also appeared in court on Wednesday.

She said that in the hours before the incident with police, he had told her: "You’ll see when I am dead, I am the Messiah."

"I had not heard him say this before," Karen Wright told the court.

She said in the weeks before his death he "was quite convinced that he was going to be killed or he was going to be not be with us anymore".

"I said to him ‘don’t be so daft, you’re not going to die’," she told the court.

Ms Wright said he had suggested "the NHS or the police" would kill him.

She described how he had been due to go into a private hospital for kidney treatment the next day, but suddenly pulled out his dialysis line as they were watching TV.

Ms Wright told the court he had decided to drive to see his brother and father, despite her "begging" him to stay as it was around 1am.

"We hugged and kissed and I text him and ask him to contact me from Paul’s (his brother) phone."

It was at his father’s house that the altercation with police took place.

The trial continues.

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