PC who killed Dalian Atkinson is jailed for eight years

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was the first British officer in 35 years to be found guilty of unlawfully killing a member of the public in the course of his duty

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was the first British officer in 35 years to be found guilty of unlawfully killing a member of the public in the course of his duty

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was the first British officer in 35 years to be found guilty of unlawfully killing a member of the public in the course of his duty

A policeman was today jailed for eight years after being dramatically convicted of manslaughter over the killing of former footballer Dalian Atkinson.

PC Benjamin Monk, 43, was the first British officer in 35 years to be found guilty of unlawfully killing a member of the public in the course of his duty.

He was cleared of murder but will face a long spell behind bars after his claims to be ‘terrified’ Mr Atkinson could kill him and his 31-year-old fellow officer lover failed to sway the jury.

Following the verdict Mr Atkinson’s family compared his death to the George Floyd case in the US – which rocketed the country and led to Black Lives Matter protests across the world.

They said in a statement it was ‘unacceptable’ it had taken nearly five years to convict Monk, when the man who killed Floyd – Derek Chauvin – took less than a year. 

It recently emerged Monk had been found guilty of gross misconduct before killing Mr Atkinson – after hiding two cautions on his application to join the force.

Birmingham Crown Court was told Benjamin Monk kept his job with West Mercia Police in 2011 after being found to have breached required standards for honesty and integrity.

The court was told two cautions issued to him in 1997 and 1999 – for theft from a shop during a summer holiday job, and for being found drunk – were not disclosed on his application papers in 2001.

Monk had said he could only recall aiming one kick at Mr Atkinson’s shoulder outside the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star’s childhood home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in August 2016.

PC Benjamin Monk

PC Benjamin Monk

PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith

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)

Legal representatives for the Atkinson family read a statement alongside Kenroy Atkinson, brother of Dalian, and his wife Julie (right), outside Birmingham Crown Court

Legal representatives for the Atkinson family read a statement alongside Kenroy Atkinson, brother of Dalian, and his wife Julie (right), outside Birmingham Crown Court

Legal representatives for the Atkinson family read a statement alongside Kenroy Atkinson, brother of Dalian, and his wife Julie (right), outside Birmingham Crown Court

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

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

Jailing Pc Benjamin Monk, the Recorder of Birmingham, Melbourne Inman QC, said: ‘You have let yourself and the force down.

‘Although they were difficult, you failed to act appropriately in the circumstances as they developed and you used a degree of force in delivering two kicks to the head, which was excessive and which were a cause of Mr Atkinson’s death.

‘The obvious aggravating factor is that you committed this offence while on duty as a police officer.’

The judge added: ‘The police play a central and important role in upholding the rule of law in our society. The sentence must reflect the importance of maintaining public confidence in our police.’

Monk, who the judge accepted had shown genuine remorse, was ordered to serve two-thirds of his eight-year sentence before being entitled to release on licence.’ 

Footage was released of the moment PC Monk explained his encounter with Atkinson in Telford in August 2016.

Describing the night with his colleague PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, Monk said: ‘I had formed the opinion that the only way I could keep this man on the ground to ensure our safety was to kick him.

Killer PC’s false claims to have only aimed ‘one kick’ at ex-footballer as he lay on the ground

The police officer convicted of killing ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson demonstrated to investigators just days after the fatal incident how he delivered ‘one kick’ to the former sportsman, while he was on the floor.

Jurors in the trial of Pc Benjamin Monk, who was cleared of murder but found guilty of Mr Atkinson’s manslaughter on Wednesday, heard how later scientific examination of bootlace-marks left in the ex Aston Villa striker’s forehead, showed the police officer had kicked him twice.

Monk also claimed in the interview that he believed the kick was to Mr Atkinson’s ‘left shoulder’ area, although evidence presented in court showed the blows landed on Mr Atkinson’s head.

Prosecutors claimed during the trial that West Mercia Police’s constable Monk had used unlawful and unreasonable force during a third and final 33-second firing of the officer’s Taser, and by then kicking the ex-forward.

Mr Atkinson, 48, who had also starred for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town during his earlier football career, died about 70 minutes after the incident.

A two-and-a-half minute clip of Monk’s interview by investigators from the then Independent Police Complaints’ Commission, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and shown to the jury, was released at the end of the trial. It took place on August 26, 2016.

The footage provided an insight into Monk’s recollection in the days immediately following the incident in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, as it was recorded 11 days after Mr Atkinson died.

In interview, Monk is asked by the interviewer where he was stood on the night, with the officer then using two glasses from the table in front of him, recreating the scene. He said: ‘This is his left shoulder here and I am stood there, so two paces away off his left shoulder.’

Monk was asked why he told another officer at the scene to ‘get back’, replying: ‘I had formed the opinion that the only way I could keep this man on the ground to ensure our safety: I was going to kick him. And that’s what I did.’

The interviewer then asked: ‘Could you describe to me the kick that you did?’

Monk replied: ‘It was basically right-footed. I pulled my right foot back, kicked him in the area which I believe to be is shoulder area with one kick. And the placement of the foot would have been on the laces. Like a football boot, if you’d imagine.’

Monk then stood up from the interview table, holding his right foot, standing back, and said ‘it was literally there’, pointing to the laces of his right boot, and again saying ‘there’.

When asked where he had ‘made contact’ with Mr Atkinson, with the kick, Monk replied: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’

The interviewer asked which shoulder he had ‘guessed’ he struck, with the officer of 14 years’ experience replying: ‘His left shoulder.’

The interviewer asked him: ‘And you said it was one kick?’ Monk replied: ‘One kick. To the best of my recollection, it was one kick.’ 

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‘And that’s what I did and I thought well whatever proximity he was to me… I didn’t want to go anywhere near him because if I kick her over I’m in the same position. So that was my intention – to make sure she was safely back.’

Asked to describe the kick, he continued: ‘It was basically right footed. Pulled my right foot back, kicked him in the area I believed to be the shoulder area, with one kick.

‘The placement of the foot would have been, for want of a description, on the laces, like a football boot if you could imagine. So not…’ He then demonstrates where he struck Mr Atkinson on his foot.

Asked what he made contact with, he said: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ And probed on which shoulder he hit, he added: ‘His left shoulder.’

The court had heard Monk had used unreasonable force while trying to protect PC Bettley-Smith, 31. An assault charge facing her over his death is still being considered.

A 12-person jury took 18 hours and 48 minutes to unanimously clear him of murder, but found him guilty of manslaughter, also by an unanimous verdict. 

Monk’s conviction is for an offence called ‘unlawful act manslaughter’. 

Mr Atkinson’s family compared the incident to the death of Floyd in the US in 2019, saying it was ‘unacceptable’ it had taken nearly five years to convict Monk, when Chauvin was in less than a year.

They said: ‘The past five years have been an ordeal for Dalian’s family. We knew years ago about the terrible injuries inflicted by PC Monk on Dalian, but have been unable to talk about them due to the criminal process.

‘We are hugely relieved the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.

‘While it has been hard for us not to be able to talk about the details of Dalian’s death, it has been even harder to sit through this trial and to hear PC Monk try to justify the force he used.

‘On the night he died, Dalian was vulnerable and unwell and needed medical attention. He instead received violence, and died with PC Monk’s boot lace prints bruised onto his forehead.

‘We have been sickened to hear PC Monk try to minimise the force he used on Dalian and exaggerate the threat he posed.

‘Fortunately, the jury has seen through the lies and the pretence. We would like to thank the jury members for all their hard work and attention.

‘The fact this case has taken nearly five years to get to trial is completely unacceptable, especially when you consider PC Monk’s identity was known to the prosecuting authorities from day one.

‘By contrast, the murderer of George Floyd was convicted less than a year after his death. Our system for prosecuting police officers must work better in future to get rid of these unjustifiable delays. No more excuses – no more delays. Dalian’s footballing talent led him to achieve great things in his life.

‘Our sincere hope now the truth about his death is known, and justice has been done, is that we can start to remember him not for the manner in which he died, but for the way in which he lived.’

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

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

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

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

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

The historic verdict is a vindication 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.

Former fan favourite Mr Atkinson, 48, had been suffering from mental health problems and paranoia at the time of his death.

He 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’.

He 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’.

Last killer policeman was convicted back in 1986 

Sergeant Alwyn Sawyer is the last serving police officer until today to be convicted of manslaughter.

Henry Foley, 67, had been arrested for being drunk in Southport and put into the cells on February 11, 1985.

The next day he was not released and it was claimed he attacked a police officer in his cell, leading to him being handcuffed behind his back.

Another officer Sergeant Sawyer took over at the police station and went into the holding area where Mr Foley was being kept.

The prisoner was stamped or kicked so badly his bowel was ruptured and later after complaining of stomach pain was rushed to hospital.

He died at 7.15pm that night from a heart attack brought on by his injuries.

Sawyer was charged and stood trial in February 1986, with the jury taking four hours to clear him of murder – but guilty of manslaughter.

He was jailed for seven years, with the judge telling him he had committed a ‘gross act’

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But 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.

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

In her closing speech to the jury, 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.

Earlier the trial heard 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’ 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 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.

PC Benjamin Monk interview with IOPC investigators from 26 August 2016. He has today been found guilty of manslaughter

PC Benjamin Monk interview with IOPC investigators from 26 August 2016. He has today been found guilty of manslaughter

PC Benjamin Monk interview with IOPC investigators from 26 August 2016. He has today been found guilty of manslaughter

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

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

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.

Family’s agony after guilty verdict

‘Dalian Atkinson is much missed by all his family and friends and the footballing communities of the clubs he played for in his long and successful career as a professional footballer, especially Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa.

‘The past five years have been an ordeal for Dalian’s family.

‘We knew years ago about the terrible injuries inflicted by Pc Monk on Dalian, but have been unable to talk about them due to the criminal process.

‘We are hugely relieved the whole country now knows the truth about how Dalian died.

‘While it has been hard for us not to be able to talk about the details of Dalian’s death, it has been even harder to sit through this trial and to hear PC Monk try to justify the force he used.

‘On the night he died, Dalian was vulnerable and unwell and needed medical attention. He instead received violence, and died with PC Monk’s boot lace prints bruised onto his forehead.

‘We have been sickened to hear PC Monk try to minimise the force he used on Dalian and exaggerate the threat he posed.

‘Fortunately, the jury has seen through the lies and the pretence.

‘We would like to thank the jury members for all their hard work and attention.

‘The fact this case has taken nearly five years to get to trial is completely unacceptable, especially when you consider Pc Monk’s identity was known to the prosecuting authorities from day one.

‘By contrast, the murderer of George Floyd was convicted less than a year after his death.

‘Our system for prosecuting police officers must work better in future to get rid of these unjustifiable delays. No more excuses – no more delays.

‘Dalian’s footballing talent led him to achieve great things in his life.

‘Our sincere hope now the truth about his death is known, and justice has been done, is that we can start to remember him not for the manner in which he died, but for the way in which he lived.’

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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 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.’

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

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

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)

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

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.

‘I said to my husband, ”Oh my God, he’s dead, he’s not moving. Why is he telling him to keep his head down? They is talking to a dead man”.

‘I did not see the body move at all. I thought he was dead. At one point the officer was kicking his head so hard I had to look away because it was too much.’

She described several stamps and kicks to Mr Atkinson’s head and said the female officer was using her baton to hit his legs and the ‘fleshy parts of his body’.

‘She went to cuff him but his hands were limp,’ she said. ‘The lady was panicking.’ Mrs Jeffery-Shaw, who had known Mr Atkinson all his life, said she did not recognise him on the night.

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

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

‘Had I known it was him I would have gone out to stop it,’ she said, ‘and maybe get killed myself. I would have comforted him and calmed him down.’

Janet Lewis, who also lived on the street, recalled seeing Mr Atkinson ‘staggering about’ before Monk aimed his Taser at him and shouted ‘stand still, stand still or I will use my Taser’.

In a statement read out by the prosecution, she said: ‘Dalian however kept on moving towards the officers. I then watched as Dalian fell to the ground behind a car.’

According to Mrs Lewis’s statement, she heard a ‘hissing, crackling’ sound for couple of seconds as the Taser was discharged.

She then saw the male officer’s left arm and shoulder moving backwards and forwards, but stop suddenly as though he had kicked something.

‘It was very similar to a footballer kicking a football with substantial force,’ the statement added.

Meanwhile a third witness, Julia Shilton, said she saw a ‘male officer’ telling Mr Atkinson to get on the ground ‘a couple of times’.

She continued: ‘The male police officer told him to get down on the ground a couple of times. Mr Atkinson didn’t and he turned towards the officer and he sort of made his manner like a bit more menacing.

‘At that point the officer drew something in his hand and I hoped it wasn’t a gun. I just thought it was a Taser and I heard a crackling sound… but Mr Atkinson was still stood there.

‘Then I heard a crackling noise and the officer had obviously brought the Taser up again and fired again. At that point Mr Atkinson fell down to the ground. In layman’s terms, like a ton of bricks. He just went down.’

Giving a statement outside of West Mercia Police headquarters in Hindlip, Droitwich, Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion expressed their sadness at Dalian’s death.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones said: ‘Today a jury at Birmingham Crown Court has found PC Ben Monk guilty of the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson.

‘Words alone cannot express the deep shock and regret that I feel that I must stand here and address you today because a West Mercia officer has been found criminally responsible for Dalian’s death.

‘I am sincerely sorry and extend my apologies and deepest condolences to Dalian’s family and friends all of whom have shown great dignity and strength.

‘Dalian’s death has devastated his family and friends and the local community.It has also caused great shock and sadness throughout the police service.

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion today gave statements outside the force's headquarters in Hindlip

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion today gave statements outside the force's headquarters in Hindlip

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones and West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion today gave statements outside the force’s headquarters in Hindlip 

‘Police officers come to work to serve the community to keep the public safe. Our uniform should represent justice public safety and observance of the law. Those who wear it, as individuals, are also subject to those laws and should be held to the very highest standard of conduct and behaviour.’ 

She added: ‘With regard to PC Monks conviction, West Mercia is now able to undertake a fast-track misconduct process. 

‘We very much desire to have a workforce that is representative of the communities that we police and I think there is a lack of understanding in the police of the experience of members of our black communities.’

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said: ‘My thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of Dalian Atkinson who during what would have been an unimaginably difficult time have held their grief with dignity and fortitude.

‘Whilst I can never possibly fully understand what they have gone through and are still going through I know that no matter the outcome of this trial it would never take away their loss of Dalian.

‘As Police and Crime Commissioner I am deeply concerned that a serving West Mercia Police officer has committed manslaughter.

‘The standard of behaviour and actions expected of police officers by our community is rightfully high and it is extremely worrying that someone trusted to uphold our laws has fallen so far short and I recognise our community will share those concerns. 

He added: ‘I am clear that the end of the trial cannot draw a line under this matter I will ensure that the lessons for West Mercia police are fully understood from the events on August 15, 2016.

‘And I will robustly hold them to account for taking whatever action is required.’ 

Drink, despair, bankruptcy of an idol who never fulfilled his potential: Dalian Atkinson’s devastating plunge from Aston Villa fan favourite to fallen star gripped by paranoia 

By Rory Tingle for MailOnline and James Tozer and Andy Dolan for the Daily Mail 

Mention the umbrella moment to any Aston Villa fan and you’ll almost certainly be met with a wry smile. 

The image of Dalian Atkinson with fellow striker Dean Saunders on his shoulders as they were shielded from the rain by an umbrella-wielding pitch invader is seared on the memories of millions – even more so than Atkinson’s spectacular solo effort that netted the 3-2 away win at Wimbledon. 

The moment summed up Atkinson’s approach which he was to reflect upon just hours before his death, telling his girlfriend: ‘All I ever wanted was to make people happy. I played football the way that I did because I wanted to entertain. I wanted everyone to go home with smiles on their faces.’

Yet away from the pitch the footballer endured a difficult private life, struggling with his mental health and developing an increasing paranoia that displayed themselves on his final day, when he had earlier threatened to kill his father and brothers. 

Later on August 15, 2016, before being Tasered by PC Benjamin Monk, 43, Atkinson, 48, shouted: ‘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’. 

Dalian Atkinson was a cult hero among fans of the teams he played for. He is pictured in 1992 when he famously celebrated an away win against Wimbledon with an umbrella-wielding pitch invader

Dalian Atkinson was a cult hero among fans of the teams he played for. He is pictured in 1992 when he famously celebrated an away win against Wimbledon with an umbrella-wielding pitch invader

Dalian Atkinson was a cult hero among fans of the teams he played for. He is pictured in 1992 when he famously celebrated an away win against Wimbledon with an umbrella-wielding pitch invader 

Back row left to right, Nick Barmby, Jamie Redknapp, Dalian Atkinson, front row Ray Parlour, Chris Waddle, Paul Ince and Gary Speed pose in a Hot Tub whilst filming a Televsion advert for Sky Sports

Back row left to right, Nick Barmby, Jamie Redknapp, Dalian Atkinson, front row Ray Parlour, Chris Waddle, Paul Ince and Gary Speed pose in a Hot Tub whilst filming a Televsion advert for Sky Sports

Back row left to right, Nick Barmby, Jamie Redknapp, Dalian Atkinson, front row Ray Parlour, Chris Waddle, Paul Ince and Gary Speed pose in a Hot Tub whilst filming a Televsion advert for Sky Sports

Hailed as the next big thing at the dawn of football’s lucrative Premier League era, Atkinson appeared destined for wealth and success.

Blessed with devastating pace and brilliant control, the youngster from Shropshire was tipped as a future England star alongside another up-and-coming young striker, Alan Shearer.

But a nightmare series of injuries – combined with a reputation for being ‘lazy’ plus lurid headlines about his private life, including an alleged love child and three driving bans – meant he never fulfilled his potential.

Fondly remembered by Aston Villa fans, in particular for his 1992 Match of the Day ‘goal of the season’ against Wimbledon, his problems meant he spent much of his career at little-known clubs in Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

Questioned as a young player about the source of his athleticism, Atkinson quipped: ‘I used to get chased by dogs in the street when I was a kid.’ Asked where, he sarcastically replied: ‘Harlem.’

Far from the poverty-stricken upbringing his interviewer may have imagined, Atkinson was raised in Telford, the son of a church deacon and respected member of the town’s West Indian community.

He joined Ipswich before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, and later became Spanish club Real Sociedad’s first black player. But it was as Aston Villa’s £1.6million record signing in 1991 that he would be best known.

Sheffield Wednesday striker Dalian Atkinson enjoys the close attention of a massuese at the Henlow Grange Health farm

Sheffield Wednesday striker Dalian Atkinson enjoys the close attention of a massuese at the Henlow Grange Health farm

Sheffield Wednesday striker Dalian Atkinson enjoys the close attention of a massuese at the Henlow Grange Health farm

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

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

An injury-hit first season – Atkinson admitted becoming overweight and lazy, saying he was ‘always heading for the carvery and eating too much’ – was forgotten with a prolific streak 12 months later, including the club’s first Premier League goal.

His success saw him linked with Manchester United – about to begin their dominance under Alex Ferguson – while pundits suggested Atkinson and Shearer represented England’s future following Gary Lineker’s retirement.

How Dalian Atkinson’s family spent nearly five years battling for justice 

West Mercia Police constable Benjamin Monk has been jailed for eight years for the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson, almost five years after the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town striker was Tasered in the street where he grew up in Telford.

Here is a timeline of events after the incident, which happened in the early hours in a cul-de-sac near his elderly father’s home.

– August 15 2016: Dalian Atkinson goes into cardiorespiratory arrest and dies in hospital after being Tasered and kicked in the head by Pc Benjamin Monk in Meadow Close, Trench. Police had been called to the scene by a concerned neighbour amid concern for the safety of Atkinson’s father.

West Mercia Police refer the incident to the then-watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission, now the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). Relatives say Mr Atkinson was ‘not in his right mind’ and was suffering from health issues including kidney problems and a weak heart when he was hit.

– August 16 2016: The Police Federation of England and Wales defends the use of Tasers, saying officers have to deal with situations ‘that arise in the blink of an eye’ with no time to research someone’s medical history.

– August 17 2016: A petition calling on the Government to urgently review police use of Tasers gathers more than 50,000 signatures as activists call for a ‘rigorous and transparent’ review into Mr Atkinson’s death.

– August 18 2016: The IPCC says two West Mercia officers are under criminal investigation and have been served gross misconduct notices.

– August 24 2016: An inquest opening hears that doctors battled in vain for 35 minutes to save Mr Atkinson.

– September 2 2016: A PA news agency survey finds a ‘complete lack of consistency’ among police forces in the deployment of body cameras to officers armed with Tasers.

– November 19 2016: Former stars from the football world join hundreds of mourners as emotional tributes are paid at Mr Atkinson’s funeral in Telford.

– August 2017: The police watchdog reveals three West Mercia officers have been interviewed under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices. It says it looked into the level and type of force used in the incident and is considering evidence from 15 other police officers and more than 15 members of the public.

– October 2018: The IOPC passes its file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service after concluding its investigation.

– November 7 2019: Pc Monk is charged with murder and manslaughter while his West Mercia colleague Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith is charged with assault. Both officers are initially granted anonymity when appearing at Birmingham’s magistrates’ and Crown courts. Monk and Bettley-Smith were only referred to in both courts as constables A and B and were not asked to give their name, age or address. Judge Simon Drew QC ruled that neither of the officers could be identified after lawyers raised fears for their safety and also granted them unconditional bail.

– November 13 2019: The same judge agrees to lift an order protecting the identities of the two police constables after hearing legal submissions from media organisations opposing the anonymity orders. Counsel acting for six media groups argued the anonymity orders were an ‘unjustified’ and serious interference with common law open justice principles.

– November 14 2019: A judge rules that the full addresses of the two police officers cannot be published after it was argued there were risks to their safety.

– July 20 2020: The officers’ trial is relisted for 2021 because of timetable delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

– May 4 2021: The trial opens with a jury hearing claims that Mr Atkinson was Tasered for six times longer than is standard and then kicked at least twice, leaving bootlace prints on his forehead. Prosecutors allege Monk, 43, intended to cause really serious injury when he became ‘angry’ with the former footballer after two initial uses of a Taser proved ineffective.

Prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC says of the two police officers in the dock: ‘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.

‘As far as Pc Bettley-Smith is concerned she struck Dalian Atkinson repeatedly with an extended baton whilst he was lying on the ground having been incapacitated by the Taser. She was, the prosecution say, not acting in self-defence or in defence of her colleague.’

– May 18 2021: The trial is told that data from the Taser fired at Mr Atkinson showed it was activated eight times for a total of more than 80 seconds. The data from the Taser recorded periods when its trigger was pressed, but did not show whether it had been effective in delivering an electrical charge.

– June 2 2021: Monk tells jurors he feared he was going to die and fired his Taser as a last resort. When asked if he had been conscious of continuously pressing the Taser’s trigger for 33 seconds, he replies: ‘Absolutely not. Absolutely not.’

– June 8 2021: Pc Bettley-Smith takes to the witness box to tell the jury she hit Mr Atkinson with a baton because it was ‘absolutely necessary’ to protect herself and her colleague. She also said she was ‘terrified’ during the incident.

– June 15 2021: Jurors retire to consider verdicts after hearing six weeks of evidence.

– June 23 2021: Jurors unanimously convict Monk of Dalian Atkinson’s manslaughter, but clear him of a separate charge of murder.

– June 24 2021: The jury is discharged after failing to reach a verdict on allegation faced by Pc Bettley-Smith. 

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Thanks to the money flooding into the sport as a result of BSkyB’s broadcasting deal, he was earning what then seemed a staggering £3,000 a week.

In a sign of how far he had progressed from his modest upbringing, Atkinson bought a five-bedroom detached house called The Rookery in a village near Burton-on-Trent – long since sold, the property is now valued at more than £700,000.

Off the pitch, Atkinson’s deteriorating relationship with namesake manager Ron saw his performances falter. He was fined for missing a summer tour to South Africa for ‘family reasons’ and the pair almost came to blows in the dressing room.

His boy racer driving earned him three road bans – including a 1993 smash in which his uninsured VW Golf GTI ploughed into an elderly couple’s car.

Atkinson also faced bankruptcy proceedings over a £2,000 mobile phone bill, while in 1995 a single mother accused him of fathering her daughter and refusing to pay maintenance.

Lyn Kelsall, then 28, told the Daily Mirror that after meeting at a nightclub the star regularly paid £60 taxi fares to ferry her from her Mansfield home to his house where they sometimes had unprotected sex three or four times a night.

According to the paper, Atkinson admitted offering to pay for an abortion, but after signing a £10,000-a-week deal to play for Turkish club Fenerbahce a paternity test proved negative.

She refused to accept the finding as the samples were taken in Turkey, telling the paper: ‘I swear I made love to no one other than Dalian at the time Demi was conceived.’ She wrote on her Facebook page after his death: ‘Seeing the news my Demi’s dad has died – sad times.’ She later wrote that her daughter was really upset.

Demi posted a link to news coverage of Atkinson’s death accompanied by two broken hearts. After a promising start, Atkinson’s spell in Turkey ended in acrimony with the club accusing him of going awol for three months. He vanished to near-obscurity at clubs including Jeddah-based Al-Ittihad before retiring aged 33.

He was also known over a notorious gaffe when Karren Brady – then a novice football executive – asked Ron Atkinson, who is white, whether the player was his son.

‘I hadn’t got the heart to tell her,’ Mr Atkinson later recalled of his encounter with the future Apprentice star and Conservative peer. For Dalian, forging a life outside football without the international caps and winner’s medals earned by many of his contemporaries proved a struggle.

Carlton Palmer, a former team-mate, said he had found retirement difficult. ‘Dalian would not have finished his career financially secure and he was scratching around doing stuff,’ he said, adding that this had resulted in ‘a very dangerous spiral’.

Atkinson founded a sports consultancy business named Players Come First in 2009 but this was dissolved last year. He also worked with community projects in the Telford area.

Speaking about a football scheme for unemployed youngsters before his death, Atkinson said: ‘They look disheartened, as though they’re in a dead end and they’ve had so many knockbacks. But you’ve got to keep on going, you’ve got no choice. You’ve got to keep trying.’

Locals near the scene of his death – close to his father Ernest’s Telford home – said he was a regular visitor following the death of his mother Ambrozine in 1999.

But relatives revealed he had suffered kidney problems in recent years. ‘Dalian had only come out of hospital a few days ago,’ one friend said. ‘He had a kidney complaint and he was due to have an appointment at a private hospital in Manchester.

‘The only thing I can think is he has had a drink and it hasn’t agreed with some medication.

‘I’ve known Dalian and seen him have a drink but I’ve never known him have a problem.’

The friend added: ‘He was brought up around here and is very popular. Even when he made it as a footballer he didn’t disappear, he was always coming back.

‘He bought the house for his parents, it was a lovely gesture.’ 

Atkinson’s mental health deteriorated in the weeks leading to his death, with Karen Wright, the his partner at the time, telling jurors he ‘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 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.’

Birmingham Crown Court head how Atkinson had tried to kill his father, Ernest, and his own two brothers in the hours before he was Tasered. 

Summarising a statement from Ernest to the jury,  prosecutor Paul Jarvis said: ‘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. 

Link hienalouca.com

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