London (AFP) – A police officer accused of murdering former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson claimed the player threatened to take him “to the gates of hell”, a court heard on Wednesday.
The second day of a trial at Birmingham Crown Court in central England heard that Police Constable Benjamin Monk made the claim while telling investigators he kicked the former star, 48, once to “control and restrain” him after he was tasered to the ground.
Jurors were told that Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, and PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who has pleaded not guilty to assault, were twice interviewed under caution.
The trial heard on Tuesday that Atkinson, who played for Villa in the 1990s, went into cardiac arrest and died on August 15, 2016 in Telford, 30 miles (50 kilometres) from Birmingham, after a Taser was deployed for six times longer than is standard.
The prosecution also alleges that Monk delivered at least two kicks to Atkinson’s head.
Summarising what Monk, now 42, said to investigators, prosecutor Alexandra Healy told the court the officer was aware of a “loud row” taking place inside Atkinson’s father’s house.
“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’,” said Healy.
“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’.”
Monk told investigators that Atkinson stepped towards him, so he deployed his Taser but it twice proved ineffective. On the third occasion Atkinson was incapacitated.
Healy said Monk reported that he walked up to the former footballer and told him to stay where he was but Atkinson tried to get up.
– Kick –
“At that stage, PC Bettley-Smith struck Mr Atkinson to his lower legs, but that did not work and so he (Monk), he says, delivered a single kick with his right foot to the area that he believed to be Mr Atkinson’s left shoulder,” said Healy.
“He said he did this in order to enable him to control and then restrain Mr Atkinson.”
On further questioning, the court heard, Monk said he did not know where the kick landed, but he emphasised it was a single kick.
Concluding her opening speech, Healy said the jury would have to consider whether Monk had intended to cause really serious injury.
Jurors were told they would also have to judge whether the lengthy deployment of the Taser “and/or the at least two kicks to the head” significantly contributed to the death of Atkinson.
Ms Healy 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 say.”
Prosecutors also argue that the two defendants discussed how to account for their conduct before giving their version of events.
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