Ex-Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson died after being tasered three times and kicked at least twice to the head by an “angry” police officer, a murder trial jury has heard.
The jury at Birmingham Crown Court was told West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk denies the murder and manslaughter of the 48-year-old former footballer, who also played for Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday.
Opening the Crown’s case against the 42-year-old officer, who was charged after a three-year inquiry into Mr Atkinson’s death in 2016 in Telford, Shropshire, prosecution counsel Alexandra Healy alleged the ex-footballer was tasered for 33 seconds, more than six times the standard five-second phase.
The QC told the court on Tuesday that Mr Atkinson, who had serious health problems including end stage renal failure, moved towards the officers after they were called to a disturbance in Meadow Close, Telford, at about 1.30am.
Outlining the Crown’s case, the prosecutor said the third deployment of a Taser by Monk was “completely effective” and caused Mr Atkinson neuro-muscular incapacitation before he fell forwards onto the road.
The barrister told the jury: “The standard default setting of a Taser is a five-second phase, but it is possible to override that by continuing to depress the trigger.
“And Pc Monk continued to depress the trigger for over six times the length of a standard five-second phase.
“The taser was deployed for 33 seconds.”
The prosecution counsel added: “Pc Monk also proceeded to kick Dalian Atkinson.
“At least two kicks were delivered by him to Dalian Atkinson’s forehead with enough force to leave the imprints of the pattern of the laces from the top of his boot on two separate areas of Mr Atkinson’s forehead.”
Monk’s colleague, Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, is also facing trial charged with assault.
She has pleaded not guilty to a charge alleging she assaulted Mr Atkinson occasioning actual bodily harm before his death on August 15 2016.
The court heard that Monk, who has 14 years’ service in uniform, and Bettley-Smith, who joined the force in February 2015, were in a relationship at the time of the incident.
Addressing Bettley-Smith’s alleged role, Ms Healy claimed the younger officer had struck Mr Atkinson, whilst he was lying on the ground, a number of times with her baton.
The prosecutor added of Monk: “In kicking Dalian Atkinson in the head not once, but on two separate occasions, Pc Monk was not, the prosecution say, acting in self-defence or in defence of another.
“He was no doubt angry that he had been put in fear by this man.
“He chose to take that anger out on Dalian Atkinson by kicking him in the head.
“His training will have taught him, and it is obvious, that the head is a sensitive area.
“In kicking Dalian Atkinson to the head Pc Monk can only, the prosecution say, have only intended to cause really serious injury.”
The court heard Mr Atkinson had been a successful professional footballer, playing for Aston Villa between 1991 and 1995.
Ms Healy told the court: “In more recent years he had had a number of serious health issues.
“He had high blood pressure and in fact had heart disease – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a disease in which the heart muscles become abnormally thick, which can make it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body.
“He was also suffering from end stage renal failure.”
Describing Mr Atkinson’s behaviour at the scene as disturbed and erratic, Ms Healy said: “He was shouting in the street, demanding to be let into his father’s house.
“It awoke some of the neighbours, one of whom was so concerned that she phoned the police.
“The two defendants were the two police officers who attended the scene in response.
“Police Constable Monk was the more experienced officer and was armed with a Taser. He was equipped, as is standard, with three Taser cartridges. Pc Bettley-Smith was armed with an extendable baton.”
After knocking at the door of the ex-footballer’s father’s home, Monk attempted to taser Mr Atkinson but it was ineffective, the court heard, possibly because the two probes did not attach properly.
Mr Atkinson then came out of the address and advanced to the end of the drive, prompting Pc Monk to deploy a second Taser cartridge towards Mr Atkinson’s back, which was also ineffective.
Ms Healy went on: “Dalian Atkinson then proceeded to punch the glass pane in the top half of the door to his father’s address, causing it to smash.
“He did not enter the house and there was a further confrontation between the officers and Dalian Atkinson.
“He had come back towards the two officers who were moved backwards away from him in the road.”
The Crown allege Mr Atkinson was then the subject of an unlawful attack after a Taser was used for a third time.
Ms Healy told the court: “A number of residents living in Meadow Close witnessed this attack.
“Their view was that once Dalian Atkinson had fallen to the ground he was unresponsive and still. He was no longer posing any threat to the officers. Nonetheless the two officers set about him.
“Pc Monk is charged with murder. You will want to consider that allegation with very great care. A person is guilty of murder if he unlawfully – and by that I mean not acting in self defence – kills another with the intention of killing or the intention of causing grievous bodily harm to that other.
“The two officers on that night were on duty responding to an emergency call. On any view, they were confronted with a man who was clearly acting in a disturbed and erratic way.
“They were entitled to use reasonable force to defend themselves or protect another. The prosecution do not criticise their conduct prior to the discharge of the third Taser cartridge.
“However, when the deployment of that last cartridge was completely effective, causing Dalian Atkinson to experience that neuromuscular incapacitation and fall to the ground, the prosecution say it was not reasonable to continue to depress the Taser for 33 seconds.”
The court heard an ambulance was called but Mr Atkinson, who had lost consciousness and was unresponsive, went into cardiac arrest en route to hospital and was pronounced dead at 2.45am.
Ms Healy said: “The pathologists and intensive care expert instructed by the prosecution agree that whilst his underlying health conditions meant that Dalian Atkinson was at a greatly increased risk of dying, were it not for the third Taser deployment and the kicks to his head, Dalian Atkinson would not have died that night.
“The two defendants claim they were entitled to use force on Dalian Atkinson whilst he was lying on the ground because he was attempting to get up and they feared for their safety.
“As you listen to the evidence you will of course consider that with great care.”