West Mercia Police officer cleared of assaulting ex-Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson

Dalian Atkinson (right) was struck with a baton "two or three times" by Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith (left) on the day he died, the trial heard Credit: PA

A West Mercia Police constable has been found not guilty of assaulting retired Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson during a fatal arrest involving a taser.

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 32, has been cleared at Birmingham Crown Court of assaulting the former professional footballer, who died after a confrontation with police where he was tasered three times and hit with a baton.

Jurors deliberated for over three hours before acquitting Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who struck Mr Atkinson "two or three times" with a baton in August 2016, outside his fathers home.

Bettley-Smith told her trial she was left "shaking from head to toe" and was sure she would have come to serious harm if Mr Atkinson had managed to get to his feet.

The 32-year-old told the jury she had used her baton lawfully as a last resort as she tried to control Mr Atkinson.

She said he was “actively resisting and trying to get up” at the scene in Meadow Close, Trench.

Following the acquittal, the trial judge John Butterfield KC told the jury: “You leave the court with my real thanks.”

What happened?

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

The re-trial was told the retired footballer, 48, who was capped by the England B team and also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, was looking forward to private health treatment due to start on the day he was unlawfully killed.

He lost consciousness shortly after being tasered near his childhood home in Meadow Close, Trench, and died in hospital about an hour later.

Pc Bettley-Smith and Monk, who were in a relationship at the time, were sent to the scene after Dalian Atkinson's metal state became disturbed.

His state is suspected to be due to a build-up of toxins in his body, as a result of kidney failure.

The court heard that Mr Atkinson was tasered three times in total and had not flinched in the first two taser deployments.

Pc Bettley-Smith said she hit him with a baton as he appeared to feel no pain when being tasered.

"I thought he was trying to get up to fight," she told the court. "In my opinion he was trying to get up on to his hands and knees."

Dalian Atkinson was a top flight striker in the 1990s Credit: PA

During the incident Mr Atkinson became unresponsive and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Ex-pc Monk, 43, was jailed for eight years in July 2021 after forensic evidence proved he had kicked Mr Atkinson at least twice in the head, after tasering him to the ground.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on Pc Bettley-Smith last year when they convicted Monk of manslaughter.

Claiming to have been terrified, the probationary officer, who is 5ft 5ins tall, said the incident was the only occasion she had drawn her baton during her full-time service, which began six months earlier.

The scene in Meadow Close following Dalian Atkinson’s death Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

How have West Mercia Police responded?

West Mercia Police said they will be liaising with the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) to establish next steps regarding any potential disciplinary proceedings

Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Jones, said: "Last year a jury found the actions of Ben Monk led to the death of Dalian Atkinson.

"Today, a jury has found the actions of Ellie Bettley-Smith on the night Dalian died did not amount to assault and she has been found not guilty of the charges put to her.

"Dalian’s family and friends have suffered a devastating loss; this has been an extremely long and difficult journey and they have shown great dignity throughout.

"I again want to say to them that I am sincerely sorry and extend my apologies and heartfelt condolences.

"We’re very aware of the significant impact this case has had on trust and confidence, in particular within our Black communities and our communities in Telford."