By Richard Vernalls and Matthew Cooper, PA
A police constable accused of murdering Dalian Atkinson has claimed the former footballer threatened to take him “to the gates of hell”.
The second day of a trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard that Pc Benjamin Monk made the claim while telling investigators he kicked the former Aston Villa star once to “control and restrain” him after he was tasered to the ground.
Jurors were told Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, and Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who has pleaded not guilty to assault, were interviewed under caution on August 26 2016, and in January 2017.
The trial heard on Tuesday that Atkinson, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, went into cardiac arrest and died on August 15 2016 in Telford, Shropshire, after a Taser was deployed for six times longer than is standard.
Summarising what Monk, now 42, said to investigators, prosecution QC Alexandra Healy told the court: “He described how when he was approaching (Atkinson’s father’s house) he was aware of a very loud row taking place within the property, with one voice much louder than the other.
“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’.
“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’.
“Pc Monk was, he said, fearful for himself, his partner and whoever was in (the property).”
Monk told investigators Atkinson stepped towards him, so he deployed his Taser.
Ms Healy added: “This was wholly ineffective and so he told Pc Bettley-Smith, who by this stage had pressed the emergency button on her radio, to run.
“After what must have been, he said, a short time, Mr Atkinson stopped running and so they, the officers, therefore also stopped running.”
Monk said Atkinson then swore at him and walked back towards his father’s house, punching through the glass of the front door.
Ms Healy said: “Because of that, concerned for the occupants of the address, Pc Monk deployed the Taser for a second time. Again, it was wholly ineffective.”
According to Monk’s account, Atkinson rested against a bollard after the Taser was fired for a second time.
Ms Healy continued: “Mr Monk said he loaded the third and final cartridge into his Taser and Mr Atkinson walked towards him, talking again of taking him to the ‘gates of hell’.
“Pc Monk then discharged the Taser once more and on this occasion it was, in his words, ‘completely effective’. He said Mr Atkinson went ‘rigid’ with neuromuscular incapacitation and he fell forward. He said had that Taser not worked ‘we were completely done for’.”
Jurors have heard Monk then made a radio transmission to say “I’ve got him down” after Atkinson, 48, fell into the road.
Ms Healy, who has alleged that both officers were angry by the time Atkinson was tasered for a third time, said Monk told investigators he walked up to the former footballer and told him to stay where he was.
Ms Healy added: “At this point, Mr Atkinson rolled slightly on to his right hand side and looked at him.
“He was making some sort of conversation directed at Pc Monk. Mr Atkinson was leaning on his right arm and brushing his chest in an apparent attempt to clear the Taser barbs and trying, he said, to get up.
“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.
“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 single kick.
Concluding her opening speech, Ms Healy said the jury would have to consider whether Monk had intended to cause really serious injury.
Jurors were told they will 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.
“Delivering two forceful kicks to Mr Atkinson’s head cannot have been an act in reasonable self-defence. It is difficult to see how a kick to the head could ever be a reasonable act taken to prevent Mr Atkinson from getting up. The prosecution say it’s impossible to see how two kicks could be.”
The Crown also submits that the two defendants discussed how to account for their conduct before giving their version of events.
Ms Healy alleged: “The prosecution say that Pc Bettley-Smith appears to have colluded in not telling the truth about the kicks to the head.
“The prosecution say the similarity of the accounts is indicative that the two officers have discussed between themselves how best to account for their unlawful attack on an unarmed man.”
The trial continues.