A constable accused of using “excessive” force in repeatedly hitting ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson with a baton has told a disciplinary panel “I did what I thought I had to do” to “keep him down”.
Former Aston Villa striker Mr Atkinson died after being kicked at least twice in the head by West Mercia Police officer, Pc Benjamin Monk, outside the victim’s father’s home in Telford, Shropshire, in August 15 2016.
Eyewitnesses described him “stomping” on the victim’s head, with one calling the blows “ferocious”.
Monk, who had earlier Tasered 48-year-old Atkinson to the ground before delivering the kicks, was later jailed for eight years in 2021, after his conviction at Birmingham Crown Court for manslaughter.
Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith – known as Ellie – was then a probationary response officer who attended the incident in the early hours of the morning in Meadow Close, alongside her colleague Monk.
Bettley-Smith, originally from Staffordshire, was acquitted after a retrial in 2022, but the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found there was a gross misconduct disciplinary case to answer for her use of force which, if proven, means she could face immediate dismissal from the force.
The disciplinary panel, sitting in Telford on Wednesday, heard how Bettley-Smith and Monk responded to a 999 call, arriving to find Mr Atkinson outside his father’s address, appearing “in the grip of a psychotic episode”.
Bettley-Smith, 33, described pressing the emergency red alarm-activation button on her personal radio to get back-up from colleagues, just as Mr Atkinson was shot for the first time with a Taser by Monk.
The first shot, and then a second cartridge, had no visible effect on Mr Atkinson, she told the hearing.
She and Monk moved towards Mr Atkinson, and she recalled him “grabbing at his chest where the Taser wires were”, and making a “very loud” “growling” noise.
“I just remember what I perceived to be a really aggressive, hostile, growling and just thought we had antagonised him even more by Tasering him,” she said.
“I perceived him to be trying to propel himself to get up and proceeded to strike Mr Atkinson to the fleshy areas of his body to try and get him down and under control,” she told the panel.
She recalled her strikes landing on his “thighs and buttocks”.
Her barrister, Patrick Gibbs KC, then asked if she had seen Monk kick Mr Atkinson in the head.
“I can specifically remember Monk saying ‘this isn’t working’, and I saw him pull his leg back and I know he did kick him, but I don’t know if I saw him kick him – but I know he did kick him.
“I would say it had no effect.”
Bettley-Smith said that, as back-up then arrived, she again hit Mr Atkinson with her baton, three times to his legs.
The hearing was previously told how at least three different eyewitnesses – each were residents watching from their windows – described how Mr Atkinson did not move again, once he was floored by the Taser.
But when asked why she hit Mr Atkinson, she replied: “Because I desperately needed to protect myself to stop him from getting up and keep him down on the ground.
“I was was terrified for what he would do to get back up.
“Everything that happened prior to this, the level of aggression, everything he had done, I needed to take control of the situation, to get him down, keep him down and try and restrain him.”
“I did what I thought I had to do, in the circumstances,” she added.
Asked by her barrister why she still wanted to be a police officer, she replied: “It’s a great job, despite all this tragedy… it ticked every box, helping people in the community, that’s what police work is, giving back”.
Asked how she felt now about the incident, she replied: “It was a very frightening experience, I was full of adrenaline… it’s very difficult to describe the feeling at the time – the way it ended, it was tragic.”
“It’s a very sad outcome,” she said.
“Mr Atkinson did die.
“But equally, I remember feeling at the time it could have been the other way around.
“That’s how I felt, it’s how I feel now.”
The hearing continues.