Police constable who hit Dalian Atkinson with her baton cleared of assault

Aston Villa – Dalian Atkinson
(Image credit: PA)

A police constable has been cleared of assaulting former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson, after telling jurors she struck him with a baton as a last resort.

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was acquitted after jurors rejected prosecution claims that she “lashed out” in anger at Atkinson before his death in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of August 15, 2016.

Bettley-Smith, 32, 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.

Dalian Atkinson death

Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith arrives at court before her acquittal (Jacob King/PA)

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the assault charge at the officer’s original trial last year, but convicted Pc Benjamin Monk of manslaughter.

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

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, 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.

Bettley-Smith and Monk, who were in a relationship at the time, had been sent to the scene to restrain Atkinson after his mental state became disturbed, probably due to a build-up of toxins linked to renal failure.

FA Carling Premiership – Wimbledon v Aston Villa – Selhurst Park

Dalian Atkinson, centre, pictured in action for Aston Villa in 1993 (Michael Stephens/PA)

Prosecutors alleged Bettley-Smith lost her cool and “pummelled” a “defenceless” Atkinson with a baton, causing actual bodily harm which they accepted did not contribute to his death.

In her evidence to the court, Bettley-Smith said she had used the baton because she perceived the ex-footballer still posed a threat of “serious harm” after he was tasered for a third time.

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

She told the jury she believed she had used her baton lawfully as a last resort as she desperately tried to control Atkinson, who she said was “actively resisting and trying to get up”.

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

Dalian Atkinson death

Benjamin Monk was jailed for manslaughter (Joe Giddens/PA)

Atkinson had not flinched during two of three taser deployments, and appeared to feel no pain when he smashed a window.

“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.

“I was terrified of Mr Atkinson getting up. I was terrified to even get close to him because I thought I would come to serious harm if he was to get up.

“If I could have done anything to not use my baton that night, then I would have. There was no anger or losing my cool.”

Bettley-Smith, a social work graduate, said that being told of Atkinson’s death had left her feeling overwhelmed and that the feelings had not got any easier during the past six years.

“I live it every day,” she said.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1