A female cop has been cleared of assaulting retired Aston Villa star Dalian Atkinson as he was Tasered and kicked to death by her fellow police officer boyfriend.
Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith has been cleared of assaulting Mr Atkinson prior to his death in Telford, Shropshire, in 2016 at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jurors deliberated for three hours and two minutes before acquitting Bettley-Smith and rejected prosecution claims that she ‘lashed out’ in anger at Mr Atkinson.
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.
She struck Mr Atkinson three times with a baton after he was Tasered to the ground by Pc Benjamin Monk, who was jailed last year for manslaughter.
The 32-year-old told the jury she had used her baton lawfully as a last resort as she desperately tried to control Mr Atkinson, who she said was ‘actively resisting and trying to get up’ at the scene in Meadow Close, Trench.
Bettley-Smith and Monk, who were in a relationship at the time, had been sent to the scene to restrain Mr Atkinson after his mental state became disturbed.
Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith has been cleared at Birmingham Crown Court of assaulting retired Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson prior to his death
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
Bettley-Smith hugged members of her family and appeared to break down on hearing the verdict.
Following the acquittal, the trial judge John Butterfield KC told the jury: ‘You leave the court with my real thanks.’
Bettley-Smith, 32, was accused of assault occasioning actual bodily harm following the retired footballer’s death in August 2016.
Former Aston Villa striker Atkinson died after being Tasered by PC Benjamin Monk outside his dad’s home in Telford, Shropshire.
Monk zapped the 48-year-old with a stun-gun for 33 seconds before kicking him twice in the head and was jailed for eight years for manslaughter in June last year.
Today Monk’s former girlfriend Bettley-Smith went on trial at Birmingham Crown Court for a second time after a jury previously failed to reach a verdict.
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.
Mr 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 Mr 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.
Former footballer Dalian Atkinson, left, died on August 15 2016 after an encounter with police outside his father’s home in Meadow Close, Telford, Shropshire. Pictured right is PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who has been acquitted of assault
PC Benjamin Monk was jailed for eight years after being convicted of manslaughter following a previous trial
The court earlier heard she acted unlawfully when she struck Atkinson with her baton ‘with as much force as she could muster’ while he lay on the ground after being Tasered.
She may have acted ‘out of anger’ or because she had been told by her partner Monk: ‘F**king hit him, f**king hit him’, jurors were told.
But Bettley-Smith, of West Mercia Police, claims she used reasonable force at the time and acted in self defence because she considered her life was in danger.
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis said: ‘Dalian Atkinson died after an encounter outside his father’s home with two police officers, PC Benjamin Monk and PC Ellie Bettley-Smith.
‘Those officers were in an intimate relationship at that time.
‘I should make it clear at the outset that it has never been the prosecution’s case that Ellie Bettley-Smith was responsible in any way for Dalian Atkinson’s death.
‘But it has always been the prosecution’s case that she unlawfully struck Dalian Atkinson more than once with her baton to the back of his body as he lay on the ground, thereby causing bruising that amounted to actual bodily harm.
‘Ellie Bettley-Smith does not deny striking Dalian Atkinson but she maintains that she did so either in self-defence, or in defence of Benjamin Monk or others, or in order to arrest Dalian Atkinson or to prevent him from committing further offences.
The former Aston Villa striker Atkinson died after being tasered by PC Benjamin Monk
‘Ellie Bettley-Smith says that she genuinely believed that Dalian Atkinson posed a threat to her and to Benjamin Monk at the time she hit him.’
The court heard how officers were called at around 1.30am on August 15, 2016 after Atkinson tried to smash his way into his 85-year-old dad’s house.
Atkinson confronted them both while ranting ‘I’m the f***ing Messiah’ before Monk deployed his stun gun three times.
Jurors were told Atkinson, who was unarmed, fell to the ground where Monk delivered at least two kicks to his forehead while Bettley-Smith hit him with a baton.
The former Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town striker was rushed to Princess Royal Hospital in Telford but died after suffering a cardiac arrest at 2.54am.
The court heard Atkinson had suffered from kidney failure, high blood pressure and heart disease and was ‘not acting himself’ on the night he died.
Mr Jarvis added: ‘His behaviour was both bizarre and troubling and would soon turn aggressive.
‘The events that took place on Meadow Close in the early hours of August 15, 2016 were witnessed by a number of people who lived on the close.
‘Benjamin Monk had his Taser with him and three cartridges. Ellie Bettley-Smith was not qualified to use a Taser, but she did have an extendable baton.
‘Dalian walked out of the front door and towards the officers. He said ‘You’re going to Taser me. I’m the Messiah, I’m the Messiah. You cannot hurt me’.’
‘A number of those who lived on Meadow Close knew Dalian as a regular visitor to his father’s address. It was clear to them that his actions were very much out of character.
The probationary officer, known as Ellie, claiming she acted lawfully to protect herself and others
‘It is entirely understandable that at this moment in time Benjamin Monk and Ellie Bettley-Smith would have been afraid for their safety.
‘Mr Atkinson was being aggressive towards them, and they were entitled, we accept, to take steps to subdue him.
‘There is no dispute that the discharge of the third Taser cartridge was immediately effective.
‘Dalian fell into the middle of the road as a result of experiencing neuro-muscular incapacitation.
‘A number of witnesses then saw Benjamin Monk kick Dalian Atkinson to the head.
‘We know that Benjamin Monk kicked Mr Atkinson at least twice to the forehead with sufficient force to leave the impressions of his laces with each kick.
‘The witnesses also saw Ellie Bettley-Smith take out her baton, extend it, and strike Dalian with it several times to his body.
‘Benjamin Monk was heard shout to Ellie Bettley-Smith ‘F**king hit him, f**king hit him’, which she did.’
The court heard when colleagues arrived on the scene they saw Monk with his foot on Atkinson’s head while he lay unresponsive and making ‘gurgling sounds’.
Mr Jarvis said: ‘Later, Ellie Bettley-Smith became visibly upset when informed that Mr Atkinson had died.
‘She was interviewed by the police on two occasions about the events that had taken place on Meadow Close.
‘In her second interview, she said she had hit Mr Atkinson with as much force as she could muster.
‘The prosecution accept that this must have been a frightening experience for a probationary officer in the position of Ellie Bettley-Smith.
‘Dalian Atkinson was clearly a menacing presence whose behaviour justified Benjamin Monk trying to Taser him.
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis described Mr Atkinson as a ‘clearly a menacing presence’ whose behaviour ‘justified Benjamin Monk trying to taser him’
‘But once Mr Atkinson was no longer a threat to the officers, the justification for the use of force against him evaporated.
‘It is likely that Ellie Bettley-Smith lashed out, perhaps in anger at the fact Mr Atkinson had scared her so much.
‘Or perhaps because Benjamin Monk told her to because he was himself angry, but either way when she hit him she was not trying to defend either herself or Benjamin Monk or trying to arrest Mr Atkinson.
‘That is why we say those blows were unlawful.’
The trial was adjourned until Wednesday, when Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith was acquitted after jurors rejected prosecution claims that she ‘lashed out’ in anger at Mr Atkinson before his death.