On his last day of life, Dalian Atkinson felt trapped. Strenuous physical challenges, as a result of hypertension and kidney disease, had left him weak and his mental health was crumbling, the jury heard.
He had once thrilled tens of thousands of people in football stadiums in England, Turkey and Spain. Now he was worrying two of those closest to him: his partner, Karen Wright, and Jonty, the friend whose house he was staying with.
As Sunday August 14, 2016 progressed, Atkinson prophesied his own death. “He was pretty convinced that they were going to kill him,” Wright told the court, “either by the NHS or by the police.”
She testified that on his last day, Atkinson said that “the world is sock-shaped” and referred to himself as “the messiah.” It was the first time I’d heard him use that term, but it wouldn’t be the last.
He was calm as the day started in Telford, Shropshire, with him preparing to go to a Cheshire hospital the next day to receive dialysis treatment for his kidney disease.
He was “chattering” about the Association of Professional Footballers, which was helping him with his treatment, he cut his hair and spoke to one of his brothers on the phone.
As the day progressed, Atkinson pulled out a suitable line for his dialysis, exclaiming, “I’m free.”
Then came the decision, possibly impulsive, which had dramatic consequences. When he was richer, Atkinson had bought a house in Meadow Close, Telford, where his father, Ernest, now lived. At night, he wanted to go there, saying he wanted to “go home,” the jury heard.
His partner tried to stop him, as did his friend. They clashed and then reconciled with a hug.
Atkinson insisted, and just before 1 a.m. he took his partner’s Porsche and drove to Meadow Close, where he kicked a soccer ball as a child on his way to becoming a prince in the world of soccer. In an hour, he would lie dying in the street.
Ernest, then 85, said in his court statement that his son had last visited his brother Paul three days earlier, who had accompanied him after his dialysis. So Atkinson seemed normal.
That night, around 1.10 am, Atkinson asked his father if he could come in. He looked annoyed and knocked on the front door. He walked in, and according to the statement: “Dalian told Ernest that he loved him. Dalian asked why his father and the rest of the family were trying to kill him. “
Atkinson said: “I am alive. I am the messiah and I have come to kill you. “Then:” Dalian described himself as a born-again Christian. It seemed to Ernest that Dalian was angry and, in particular, with himself. “
At one point, he grabbed his father by the neck, then there was a pause. The neighbors were getting worried. Hearing the noise, one called Ernest’s landline, Dalian answered and again said that he was the messiah. Ernest said that “he had never seen his son like this before.”
At this point, the police knocked on the door, after a concerned neighbor had called them.
PC Benjamin Monk had been a police officer for 12 years with the West Mercia force. The court heard that he grew up in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, and that his father had been in the Royal Air Force. He had an older sister and earned a diploma in sports science from Shrewsbury College.
In 2002, at age 22, he joined the West Mercia Police. In 2010, he was cleared to own a Taser and served in the force’s operations support unit, telling jurors that it primarily meant dealing with traffic problems. In 2013, he was a front-line officer based in Telford. He married in 2007, with a daughter born in 2009, but by 2011 their marriage had ended in divorce.
The night of Atkinson’s death in August 2016, he was on a night shift with probation officer PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith. The court heard that they were in a relationship at the time, which had started in 2015.
Monk knocked on Meadow Close’s door and Atkinson got out. What followed was a showdown with Atkinson that lasted six minutes. The prosecution said that for the first five minutes, Monk’s actions, while dealing with Atkinson’s erratic and bizarre behavior, were legal.
It was the last minute, with his prolonged use of stun guns and kicks to the head, that led to a historic guilty verdict against a British police officer. Not since 1986 has an officer been convicted of manslaughter while on duty, like Monk. It was on Wednesday Atkinson, after having had 50,000 volts from a stun gun go through him for 33 seconds, six times longer than normal, he fell to the ground. Then Monk kicked him in the head “like a soccer ball,” a witness said.
Jurors heard Monk’s actions described as multiple kicks or kicks. One officer recalled seeing Monk with his boot resting on the dying man’s head, as if Atkinson was now his trophy. Another recalled Monk telling him immediately afterwards that he “had to kick him in the head.”
The problems in the trial at the Birmingham crown court were reduced to two.
Did the force used by Monk kill Atkinson? Some experts who testified said that despite Atkinson’s health problems, including a heart so enlarged it was 50% larger than normal, the force used contributed to his death.
The second problem was whether Monk was acting in self-defense when he used his stun gun for 33 seconds and kicked Atkinson in the head.
Monk said the kicks, which he had not initially admitted to, stemmed from his fear that Atkinson, after being shot with the stun gun, would get up and kill him.
In order for the prosecution to obtain the guilty verdict against Monk that it obtained on Wednesday, it had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a number of issues to the jury.
These were set out by Melbourne First Instance Judge Inman QC, the Birmingham Registrar, in his legal instructions to the jury before deliberations began.
Monk argued that the force he used was in self-defense and that he had the right to act the way he did.
The judge said: “If someone, including a police officer, is being attacked or believes that he or another person is about to be attacked or that a crime is about to be committed or there are grounds for an arrest, then that person is about to be attacked. they have the right to use force to defend themselves or others or to prevent a crime or to make an arrest, as long as they do not use more force than is reasonable to do so. “
The judge continued: “As a police officer, Mr. Monk was required to take all steps that he reasonably considered necessary to prevent crime and protect the public and therefore had the right to use force to do so as long as he did not use more than reasonable force to do so. What amounts to a reasonable force under the circumstances is your business.
“How do you decide what force is reasonable? First, the question of whether the degree of force used by Mr. Monk was reasonable in the circumstances must be decided by reference to the circumstances as Mr. Monk believed them to be, even if Mr. Monk was wrong about the circumstances. circumstances and whether or not the error was. it was reasonable for him.
So, for example, even if Mr. Monk was wrong in saying that Mr. Atkinson was trying to get up, but actually believed that he was, you must decide whether your actions are reasonable based on the circumstances of your mistaken belief.
“Second, when deciding that matter, keep in mind that a person acting with a legitimate purpose cannot, in the heat of the moment when fine judgment is difficult, be able to accurately weigh the exact measure of any necessary action. “
The jury, after careful and methodical consideration of the evidence for nearly 19 hours over six days, decided that the force used by Monk was not legal and found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.