A police officer accused of murdering ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson has told a jury he cannot remember resting his boot on the former footballer’s head as he lay on the ground, after colleagues witnessed the act.
Prosecutors claim West Mercia Police Constable Benjamin Monk, who denies murder and manslaughter, used unlawful and unreasonable force during a final 33-second firing of his Taser, and by then kicking former Aston Villa star Atkinson twice in the head.
Monk, who previously described his kicks as not-targeted and “instinctive”, told a jury he was “terrified” that he and his colleague “were going to die” during the encounter.
Birmingham Crown Court heard that three Taser cartridges were deployed by Monk before 48-year-old Mr Atkinson, who later died in hospital, was handcuffed near his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of August 15, 2016.
Giving evidence in his defence on Thursday, Monk, 43, denied the prosecution’s assertion that he had “deliberately sought to lie” about kicking and tasering the former sportsman while he was lying on the ground.
Jurors have previously heard that data analysis showed the Taser, which floored Mr Atkinson on its third – and final – firing, was discharging for 33 seconds, more than six times longer than the default timing.
Monk further denied the Crown’s allegation that he had been “exaggerating” his fears during the encounter and that he later separately concocted a false account with a junior colleague, also present that evening, in order to justify what prosecutors have claimed was excessive use of force.
Jurors were earlier told that Monk’s kicks were delivered with enough force to leave imprints from the laces of his right boot on Mr Atkinson’s forehead.
Two of the first back-up officers on scene were PC Samuel Wright and Sergeant Gemma Bridgwood, with both previously giving evidence that they saw Monk standing beside the floored Mr Atkinson, with his boot resting on the man’s head.
During cross-examination, the Crown’s barrister, Alexandra Healy QC, took Monk to that part of the incident, asking: “Why did you have your boot on Mr Atkinson’s head when officers arrived at the scene?”
Monk replied: “The police constable and the sergeant made mention of this but this is a memory which I don’t have.”
Ms Healy then asked: “You don’t challenge their evidence about this?”
To which Monk replied: “No, they’re fellow police officers, absolutely not.”
Ms Healy then claimed Monk had “deliberately sought to lie” about kicking and tasering the former sportsman while he was lying on the ground.
Monk replied: “Absolutely not.”
The officer, then of 14 years’ experience, is on trial alongside fellow officer Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, also his then lover.
She denies a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, by using her force-issue extendable baton on Mr Atkinson, who had also previously played for Ipswich Town and Sheffield Wednesday.
The Crown further claimed that, after the incident, when Monk was spending nights at Bettley-Smith’s home, the pair had concocted an account together.
Ms Healy asked: “You and she agreed to pretend that Mr Atkinson was trying to get up in order to justify your and her excessive force?”
“Absolutely not,” replied Monk.
She added: “I suggest, Mr Monk, that you did speak to Miss Bettley-Smith about the kicks – it is inconceivable that you didn’t, do you agree with that?”
“No, I don’t,” he replied.
Ms Healy said: “I suggest you encouraged Ms Bettley-Smith to also get involved in attacking Mr Atkinson while he was down by saying ‘hit him’.”
Monk replied: “I didn’t say those words and didn’t encourage Ellie to do that; she made her decision based on her own observations of Mr Atkinson.”
Ms Healy continued: “Other officers arrived at the scene, while she (Bettley-Smith) was doing that and you had had your foot on his head.
“I suggest the reason you moved away from the scene when other officers arrived is because you realised you needed to calm down.”
Monk replied: “I walked away from the scene because I thought I had been going to die.”
Ms Healy said: “You had taken out your anger on Mr Atkinson in a wholly unprofessional and unlawful way.”
“Absolutely not,” said Monk.
Ms Healy added: “And when other officers arrived, you needed to walk that off.”
“No,” Monk replied.
“And as you became aware how serious the consequences were, you realised that you needed to come up with a good account in order to explain the excessive force you’d used,” said Ms Healy.
Again, Monk replied: “No.”
The trial continues.
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