Police officer is found GUILTY of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson

Police officer is found GUILTY of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson
Police officer is found GUILTY of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson

Dalian Atkinson died on August 15 outside his father's home in Telford, Shropshire

Dalian Atkinson died on August 15 outside his father's home in Telford, Shropshire 

A policeman was today dramatically convicted of manslaughter – the first British officer ever to be found guilty of unlawfully killing a member of the public in the course of his duty. 

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter over the ex-footballer's death on a quiet cul-de-sac in Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016, after his claims to be 'terrified' Mr Atkinson could kill him and his 31-year-old fellow officer lover failed to sway the jury. 

The court heard Monk had used unreasonable force while trying to protect PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31. The jury is still considering her assault charge over his death.

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The historic verdicts are a triumph for the Crown Prosecution Service who took more than three years to bring charges and secured the verdict despite the forensic complexities of the case. 

The former fan favourite had been suffering from mental health problems and paranoia at the time of his death, and shouted at Monk: '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'. 

Mr Atkinson, 48, was Tasered for 33 seconds and had two bootlace prints on his forehead after the incident in the early hours of August 15, which was witnessed by at least three horrified neighbours. He subsequently died of cardio-respiratory arrest in hospital. 

During the three-week trial, Monk told jurors he had acted proportionately in trying to restrain Mr Atkinson, saying he was 'absolutely petrified' of the footballer, who had a 'face was one of utter rage' and had told him, 'I'm taking you to the gates of hell'. 

However, prosecutors claimed the West Mercia Police constable used unlawful and unreasonable force during a third and final discharge of his Taser, which lasted for 33 seconds - more than six times the weapon's default firing time of five seconds.

They also suggested the two officers had used their police training to overstate the threat posed by the striker to justify their own actions. 

PC Benjamin Monk

PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith

PC Benjamin Monk discharged a Taser on Atkinson and kicked him twice in the head, while PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith hit him with a baton (they are seen arriving at court today)

The jacket Atkinson was wearing at the time of his death, which shows blood staining and cuts made by doctors while trying to save him

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The jacket Atkinson was wearing at the time of his death, which shows blood staining and cuts made by doctors while trying to save him 

This image of Atkinson's t-shirt on the day of his death was also shown to the jury and released to the Crown Prosecution Service today

This image of Atkinson's t-shirt on the day of his death was also shown to the jury and released to the Crown Prosecution Service today 

A close up of Atkinson's clothing, showing blood stains and damaged threads after he was struck by the two officers

A close up of Atkinson's clothing, showing blood stains and damaged threads after he was struck by the two officers 

Atkinson confronted police on this quiet cul-de-sac in Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016. Pictured is the emergency services response on the night

Atkinson confronted police on this quiet cul-de-sac in Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016. Pictured is the emergency services response on the night 

Football star Atkinson was known as a fans' favourite and played for Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town

Football star Atkinson was known as a fans' favourite and played for Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town

The court heard Mr Monk was trying to protect PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, (seen right outside court earlier in the case)

The court heard Mr Monk was trying to protect PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, (seen right outside court earlier in the case)

Mr Monk kicked the footballer so hard after the Taser felled him that forensic tests showed the patterns of his laces embedded in Mr Atkinson’s head, the court heard

Mr Monk kicked the footballer so hard after the Taser felled him that forensic tests showed the patterns of his laces embedded in Mr Atkinson’s head, the court heard

Atkinson's father's home - near to which he died on August 15, 2016 - is combed by forensic officers after the tragedy

Atkinson's father's home - near to which he died on August 15, 2016 - is combed by forensic officers after the tragedy 

In her closing speech to a jury at Birmingham Crown Court, Alexandra Healy QC described aspects of the two officers' accounts as a 'story that goes against the evidence', as she pointed to inconsistencies in their recollections.

In a post-incident interview, Monk said he believed the ex-footballer was 'very, very obviously attempting to get up', before he kicked him once on the shoulder.

But following evidence that Mr Atkinson had actually been kicked twice in the head, his defence barrister later told Birmingham Crown Court the officer did not dispute this - but only did so because he was 'terrified' that he was about to be attacked.

Earlier the trial heard that Monk colluded with Bettley-Smith, a junior colleague, to lie about the episode.

The pair were called to the home of the former Aston Villa and Ipswich Town striker's father on August 15 by neighbours after Mr Atkinson arrived there in the early hours in a disturbed and erratic state, the jury were told.

Mr Atkinson had been banging on his father's door threatening to kill both him and his own brothers when officers arrived to confront him after being called by worried neighbours.

Monk told the jury he was 'terrified' that he and Bettley-Smith - who began a relationship a year before Atkinson's death in 2016 but separated two years later - 'were going to die' during the encounter.

He denied his conduct on that August night had been influenced by his enduring relationship with his colleague, known by her middle name, Ellie.

The 6ft tall officer, who joined West Mercia Police in 2002, said that while he 'never wanted Ellie to get hurt', he would have been equally determined to protect any other colleague, describing his actions as 'reasonable and necessary' in order to restrain Mr Atkinson.

Birmingham Crown Court heard the officer's first two Taser strikes on 5ft 11in Mr Atkinson had been ineffective, leaving him with one final cartridge to use.

Monk said Atkinson allegedly told him during the incident: '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 PC 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.'

PCs Monk and Bettley-Smith backed away while waiting for back up teams to arrive - only for Mr Atkinson to smash the glass in the front door of his father's home, forcing them to engage with him again.

When Monk fired his Taser a third time, Mr Atkinson, '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.'

Monk said the two officers, plus Mr Atkinson's father, Ernest, 'were potentially done for' if that final Taser shot had not brought the ex-footballer down.

Admitting he had considered running away to lure Mr Atkinson out of the cul-de-sac, he added: 'The fact it worked it was a big relief.'

Monk said Bettley-Smith then 'delivered some baton strikes to the lower area of Mr Atkinson's legs' as he 'plucked' at the barb on his chest.

The defendant said he felt Mr Atkinson was trying to get up, so he kicked him twice - leaving the imprint of his boot laces in two areas of the footballer's forehead.

Describing the kicks, Monk said: 'It was an instinctive act, a desperate, instinctive act because this was the last thing I had', but said he never intended to hurt Atkinson.

Mr Atkinson died shortly after arrival in hospital around 70 minutes later, news which Monk said left him 'devastated'.

Jurors were previously told how Mr Atkinson had high blood pressure, heart disease and end-stage renal failure, for which he was having dialysis.

But while expert witnesses agreed that Mr Atkinson's poor health put him at much greater risk of dying, jurors were told he would not have died that night 'were it not for the third Taser deployment and the kicks to his head'.

The trial heard evidence of Mr Atkinson's increasing paranoia in his final weeks, with his father, Ernest, saying his son was 'not in his right mind' on the day of his death and had threatened to kill both his father and brothers.

Ernest Atkinson, who has since died, told police his son had grabbed him around the throat after 'pounding' on the door of his home in Meadow Close in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours.

The 85-year-old gave a statement to police a week after his son's death, which was summarised and read out to the court by junior prosecution counsel Paul Jarvis.

Mr Jarvis said: 'Ernest explained that he was in bed upstairs when he heard some movement outside at the front of his house. He saw his son Dalian standing outside on the gravel area near the front of the house.'

Mr Atkinson told police he had opened a window and asked his son what was wrong, and he had asked to come inside to talk.

The former striker seemed upset, his father said, and he opened the door for him because he was banging on it.

Addressing the jury, Mr Jarvis added: 'Dalian told Ernest Atkinson that he loved him and asked why his father and the rest of the family were trying to kill him.'

Continuing to summarise the statement, Mr Jarvis said: 'At that, Dalian grabbed Ernest by the throat and pushed him down into a chair. He told him not to move otherwise he would kill Paul and Kenroy, Dalian's brothers. Dalian asked his father how much they had paid him.'

Jurors were told Mr Atkinson then answered the phone, again shouting that he was 'the messiah.'

Mr Jarvis added: 'Ernest had never seen his son like this before. Ernest then heard a knock at the door and a voice on the other side of the door said 'police'.

'From inside the house Ernest could see and hear Dalian standing with his hands out and say 'You are going to Taser me. I'm the messiah, you cannot hurt me'.'

Mr Atkinson, who assumed the police would be able to calm his son down, then heard a bang as the glass in his front door was smashed, before two officers told him 'Dalian was fine and that he was in an ambulance'.

Mr Jarvis added: 'A short time later a police officer came into Ernest's kitchen to tell him his son had died. In his view, his son had not been in his right mind.'

Earlier in the trial, Karen Wright, Atkinson's partner at the time, told jurors that Mr Atkinson 'was quite convinced that he was going to be killed or he was going to be not be with us anymore' in the weeks leading up to his death.

'I said to him 'don't be so daft, you're not going to die',' she added.

Asked if Mr Atkinson had suggested who was going to kill him, Ms Wright said: 'He said the NHS or the police will kill me.'

She said he then added: 'You'll see when I am dead, I am the Messiah.'

At least three neighbours witnessed Mr Atkinson's struggle with the police, leaving one of them needing counselling.

Jean Jeffery-Shaw told the court she watched as Monk kicked Mr Atkinson in the head as he lay dying.

The elderly woman said she was so 'traumatised' after watching the police 'kill a man' outside her bedroom window that she was forced to consult her GP.

She said that Monk went to Mr Atkinson's head with Bettley-Smith by his body.

'One officer said, ''Keep your head down, I am not telling you again'', the man brought up his knee to stamp on his head,' she said.

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