Ex-Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson fell as though he had passed out, Pc's assault trial told

Dalian Atkinson was struck with a baton "two or three times" on the day he died, the trial heard Credit: PA

A female police officer struck retired football star Dalian Atkinson up to three times with a baton, after he had fallen to the ground "as if somebody has passed out", an eyewitness has told a jury.

The retrial of West Mercia Police constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith has heard claims that she lashed out at the former Aston Villa player when he posed no threat.

Her colleague, Benjamin Monk, was convicted of manslaughter last year, after tasering and then twice kicking Mr Atkinson in the head before his death in the early hours of August 15, 2016.

Bettley-Smith, 32, denies assault, claiming she acted lawfully in defence of others when she delivered baton strikes to Mr Atkinson near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Trench, Telford, Shropshire.

Mr Atkinson, whose career also included spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, is believed to have been in a disturbed mental state at the time of the incident, probably due to a build-up of toxins caused by kidney failure.

'I heard a crackling noise that sounded like a taser', court hears

Giving evidence from the witness box on the third day of Bettley-Smith’s retrial at Birmingham Crown Court, Meadow Close resident Victor Swinburne said he had looked out of his window after hearing "authoritative" voices instructing someone to sit down and stay where they were.

He told the court: "I heard a crackling noise and assumed that it did sound like a taser.

"The gentleman said ‘10,000 volts is nothing to me’ or something to that effect, swept his arm across his chest – I would think to remove the electrodes."

After hearing glass smashing twice, Mr Swinburne saw officers “reversing” away from Mr Atkinson, who was making comments in which he claimed to be “the messiah” and said he could see the police were scared.

The witness, who said Mr Atkinson had appeared “arrogant, not necessarily aggressive”, added: “He was tasered again and he went down… as if somebody has passed out.

“He sort of literally went down on his right shoulder. He went rigid but I think there was probably minor movements as if you have had an electric shock.”

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, arriving at her retrial Credit: Matthew Cooper/PA

'Pc struck the baton two or three times', court hears

The two officers were shouting for the man to put his hands behind his back, Mr Swinburne said.

The witness added: “As soon as he went down, the male officer went in first and gave him some kicks to the torso, and then the female officer afterwards went in. And she shielded my view of the gentleman.

“However I could see she struck the baton two or three times.

“I never saw him move once he had fallen.”

Asked to tell the jury where the female officer was standing in relation to the male Pc, Mr Swinburne added: “Just behind him. He was on the left, she was on the right.

“She had a truncheon in her right hand. She struck him two, possibly three times. I wouldn’t know whereabouts because my view was restricted – I was looking at her back and then somebody in front of her on the ground.”

'I never saw him move once he had fallen', court hears

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis asked: “Was the man on the ground doing anything to try and ward off those strikes?”

Mr Swinburne answered: “Not that I could see with my limited visibility.”

Following the kicks and baton strikes, the witness said, he heard four loud distinctive “bronchial” noises and the scene changed into a casualty situation – with Mr Atkinson being placed into a recovery position.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Richard Smith KC, Mr Swinburne was asked if Mr Atkinson was still moving after he went to the ground.

The witness added: “He could have, potentially. However I didn’t see it.”

The trial continues.