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Police officer Benjamin Monk found guilty of manslaughter of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson

The policeman was cleared of murder by jurors who are still considering an assault charge against another officer, Monk’s then-girlfriend.

Dalian Atkinson scoring for Aston Villa against his former club Ipswich in a 1992/93 FA Cup tie.
Dalian Atkinson scoring for Aston Villa against his former club Ipswich in a 1992/93 FA Cup tie.
Image: EMPICS Sport

THE ENGLISH POLICEMAN who Tasered ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson and then kicked him twice in the head has been cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court took 18 hours and 48 minutes to reach unanimous verdicts on Pc Benjamin Monk, who claimed he was put in fear of his life by the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich star on 15 August 2016.

Jurors are still deliberating on an assault charge against Monk’s colleague and then girlfriend, Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith.

According to the charity Inquest, no police officer has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter over a death in custody or following police contact in England and Wales since the 1980s.

The last time an officer was convicted in such a case was in 1986, when a Merseyside police sergeant was found guilty of manslaughter after kicking and punching a retired bus driver in a police cell.

Monk told the court he ran in fear after Atkinson, who appeared to be having a mental health crisis, made death threats and smashed a glass door pane at his childhood home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire.

The 43-year-old officer claimed the former Premier League star was trying to get up when he aimed kicks at his shoulder in lawful self-defence as a last resort, after running out of Taser cartridges.

Mr Atkinson went into cardiac arrest after being taken from the scene in an ambulance, and was pronounced dead in hospital at 2.45am – about an hour after he was Tasered.

dalian-atkinson-death Benjamin Monk. Source: PA

dalian-atkinson-death Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith. Source: PA

Prosecutors said Monk lied about the number of kicks he had delivered to the victim’s head by claiming he could remember only one aimed at his shoulder.

The officer also claimed to have no recollection of placing his foot on Atkinson’s head as colleagues arrived at the scene.

Although he conceded he must have kicked the ex-footballer twice in the forehead because bootlace prints proved he had, the officer maintained his actions were lawful self-defence made necessary when Atkinson tried to get up.

Taser records showed Monk activated the weapon eight times for a total of more than 80 seconds using three Taser cartridges, culminating in a 33-second deployment more than six times longer than is standard.

A statement read by legal representatives on behalf of Atkinson’s family read: “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.

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“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.”

dalian-atkinson-death Legal representatives for the Atkinson family read a statment alongside Kenroy Atkinson, brother of Dalian, and his wife Julie (R), outside Birmingham Crown Court. Source: PA

Jurors were told they could convict Monk of murder only if they were sure he intended to cause really serious injury.

The jury was instructed to find Monk guilty of an alternative charge of manslaughter if they were not sure he intended to cause serious harm but the force used was an act any reasonable person would realise was bound to pose a risk of physical harm.

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 Atkinson’s death.

- Comments closed as legal proceedings continue

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