PC cleared of assaulting former footballer Dalian Atkinson before he died

A police officer has been cleared of assaulting former footballer Dalian Atkinson before he died.

PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith had been facing a retrial at Birmingham Crown Court over an allegation she struck the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star prior to his death in Telford in 2016.

The jury deliberated for three hours and two minutes before acquitting the officer, who 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.

Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the assault charge at the officer's original trial last year, but convicted Monk.

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

Ms 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, probably due to a build-up of toxins linked to renal failure.

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

The retired footballer lost consciousness shortly after being tasered near his childhood home in Meadow Close, Trench, and died in hospital about an hour later.

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

Ms 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.

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".

Ms 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.