Who was Dalian Atkinson and how was he killed?

Dalian Atkinson
Dalian Atkinson was a former striker at Aston Villa Credit: PA

Dalian Atkinson was a former professional footballer who played for Aston Villa between 1991 and 1995. 

After his football career ended in 2001, Atkinson battled ill-health, suffering from high blood pressure, end-stage kidney failure and a thickening of the heart-muscle walls. 

In the early hours of Monday 15 August 2016, the former striker died after police were called to an incident in Meadow Road in the Trench area of Telford.

The retired footballer became unresponsive after being shot with a taser.

PC Benjamin Monk from West Mercia Police was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison for his death. 

Atkinson is remembered by Aston Villa fans for his goal in the 1994 League Cup Final win against Manchester United. 

He also had stints at Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester City.

What happened to Dalian Atkinson?

Monday 15 August, 2016 - Day of Dalian Atkinson's death

Just before 1.30am on Monday 15 August 2016, Atkinson became agitated and drove his girlfriend's Porsche to his father's house at Meadow Close in the Trench area of Telford

He was in the midst of a mental breakdown and had been shouting outside his father's house claiming to be the Messiah, demanding to be let in. 

A concerned neighbour called the police and PC Benjamin Monk responded.

Atkinson opened the front door and confronted the officer on the drive. 

During the next few minutes, PC Monk fired his taser three times and kicked him in the head.

Atkinson died despite the efforts of hospital doctors, who fought for 35 minutes to try and save him.

Two police officers, including PC Benjamin Monk and PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, were served with gross misconduct notices and suspended by the force while the investigation continued.

Wednesday June 23, 2021 - PC Monk charged with manslaughter

PC Benjamin Monk after being sentenced for 8 years for the manslaughter of Dalian Atkinson Credit: West Mercia Police

PC Benjamin Monk was found guilty of manslaughter of the former Aston Villa striker, but cleared of his murder. 

PC Monk used his taser on Atkinson for more than six times the recommended time and once he was on the ground, kicked him so hard that imprints of his boot laces were left on his forehead.

Thursday 24 June, 2021 - Jury fails to reach verdict on PC Bettley-Smith accused of assault

The assault case against PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, ended in a hung jury, a day after PC Monk was convicted of the ex-footballer’s manslaughter.

What did PC Monk's trial hear?

PC Monk told his trial he was "absolutely petrified" during the confrontation and that Atkinson had said: "I'm taking you to the gates of hell".

After two unsuccessful attempts, the third Taser cartridge PC Monk fired worked and the former footballer fell to the ground.

The jury was told PC Monk held down the trigger of the high-voltage stun gun for 33 seconds - more than six times longer than the recommended 5 seconds.

Dalian Atkinson was visiting his father in Telford when he was Tasered Credit: Joe Giddens / PA Wire

The jury was shown computer-generated post-mortem injury images which, said the prosecution, suggested Atkinson had been kicked at least twice in the head, once he was on the ground. 

In an interview, 11 days after the incident, PC Monk remembered things differently. 

But investigations revealed triangular patches on Atkinson's head - patterns which appeared to match the laces on PC Monk's boots. 

The jury decided those kicks were an excessive use of force. They cleared PC Monk of murder but convicted him of manslaughter.

The trial heard that within a few minutes of the incident, more than a dozen police officers had descended on Meadow Close, but by then Atkinson's condition had deteriorated.

Atkinson was taken to the Emergency Department at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford but went into cardiac arrest and died at 2:44am - some 70 minutes after his encounter with PC Monk.

The Charity Inquest says he is the first officer in 35 years to have been found guilty of murder or manslaughter following a death in police custody or following police contact in England or Wales.

Tuesday 29 June, 2021 - PC Monk sentenced to eight years in prison

During the two-day sentencing it emerged on Monday (28 June) Monk had been found guilty of gross misconduct five years before he killed Atkinson.

He failed to mention two cautions on his application form to join the West Mercia force in 2001.

The court heard he kept his job in February 2011 - a year after details of the cautions came to light - despite being found to have breached required standards for honesty and integrity.

Addressing the court, prosecutor Alexandra Healy QC said: "Mr Monk was cautioned for theft from a shop as an employee - he was employed at the time at Woolworths in 1997.

"There was a further caution in 1999 for being found drunk."

The court was told the warnings were not recorded on a computer system because of policies at the time for dealing with spent cautions.

PC Monk was sentenced to eight years in prison. 

Friday 2 July, 2021 - Prosecutors sought a retrial of PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith

PC Benjamin Monk alongside PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith. Credit: PA

Prosecutors decided to seek a retrial of PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who was accused of assaulting the former footballer.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced the move a week after a jury at Birmingham Crown Court failed to reach a verdict on PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith. She denied the charges.

Wednesday 28 September, 2022 - PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith cleared of assault following retrial

PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was cleared of assaulting Mr Atkinson, after telling jurors she struck him with a baton as a last resort.

She was acquitted after jurors rejected prosecution claims that she "lashed out" in anger at Atkinson before his death.

The trial heard how she took out her police baton, she extended it and struck Atkinson several times to his body with it.

The 32-year-old was found not guilty at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday after the jury had deliberated for three hours and two minutes following a re-trial.