London (AFP) – A policeman accused of murdering Dalian Atkinson told investigators he was “absolutely terrified” before firing a Taser at the former footballer, a court heard Thursday.

Police Constable Benjamin Monk also told a post-incident interview he could not remember when he had had taken his finger off the trigger in a 33-second tasering of the one-time Aston Villa star.

Atkinson, who played for Villa in the 1990s, went into cardiac arrest and died aged 48 on August 15, 2016 in Telford, 30 miles (50 kilometres) from Birmingham after being Tasered near his father’s home.

Monk has denied charges of murder and manslaughter regarding the death of Atkinson, while PC Ellen Bettley-Smith has pleaded not guilty to assault after striking Atkinson with a baton.

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis, addressing a jury at Birmingham Crown Court, read out summaries and extracts from interviews with both officers conducted on August 26 2016.

– ‘Complete rage’ –

Monk, 42, recalling his emotions when he saw Atkinson step out from the house, said: “The bloke was towering above me, absolutely towering. His shoulders literally filled the frame of the door.

“The way he contorted his face literally for the entire incident… the contortion was one of complete and utter rage.”

Monk told police Atkinson had claimed he was “the Messiah” and could not even have been tasered with “100,000 volts”.

Jarvis added: “PC Monk described himself as being absolutely terrified. In 15 years in the police service he had not experienced anything like this.

“PC Monk said he was running for his life. It felt like his brain was not working.”

Monk, asked when he had taken his finger off the trigger during the third firing of the Taser, the last of eight activations of the weapon, replied: “I don’t know.”

Questioned on why he had pressed the Taser’s trigger for 33 seconds after two “ineffective” firings, Monk told a subsequent interview: “I had the honestly-held belief that this man was going to cause me serious injury or death.

“I thought ‘this man is going to take my life’. Up to that point I had no idea whether it was device error or him as a person that was immune to it,” he added.

Bettley-Smith — a probationary response officer who joined the police in February 2015 — said she had delivered three blows with a baton, but stopped because “it clearly wasn’t working”.

In her first account, she said Atkinson did not flinch when initially tasered and appeared to her to be “ready to fight”.

Bettley-Smith told investigators: “In my opinion he was still trying to get up to fight. I was shaking, I was scared. We both couldn’t believe what had happened.”

The trial continues on Friday.