Socialist Worker

Cops’ use of handcuffs was ‘more likely than not’ a factor in Dalian Atkinson’s death

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2757

Cops used a Taser against Dalian Atkinson

Cops used a Taser against Dalian Atkinson (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The use of handcuffs on Dalian Atkinson was “more likely than not” a factor in his death, a court has heard.

PC Benjamin Monk from West Mercia police is on trial for the murder of the former footballer, who died in Telford, Shropshire, in 2016.

He denies the charges.

A forensic pathologist told the court that “poor management” of Atkinson after he lost consciousness probably contributed to his death. This included poor posture and the “continued use” of handcuffs after Atkinson fell unconscious.

Atkinson was still handcuffed in the ambulance that took him to hospital, where he later died from cardiac arrest at 2:45am on 15 August 2016.

“In my opinion, on the balance of probabilities, poor management of the deceased following the unconsciousness contributed to death,” Dr Nathaniel Cary told the jury.

Cary added, “I cannot state that this contributed to death beyond any reasonable doubt because the deceased's fate might already have been sealed.”

Atkinson lost consciousness after he was tasered.

The court previously heard that he was tasered for six times longer than the standard length and kicked in the head multiple times by Monk.

It also heard that the use of a Taser and kicks to the head were significant factors in Atkinson's deterioration.

Cary said “a third Taser deployment and/or kicks to the head” by Monk had contributed to Atkinson’s death. “Because of the close proximity of one to the other I am not able to identify whether one or both was the main factor,” he added.

Another forensic pathologist, Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl, said he believed multiple factors had “culminated in physiological chaos and ultimately cardiorespiratory arrest”.

Fegan-Earl was called to give evidence by Monk’s defence team. He said Atkinson's heart disease meant he was at risk of sudden death at any point.

“I don't believe there is one specific aspect of the incident which sealed his fate,” he told the court.


Monk deployed his Taser three times, but only the third had an impact. PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who was also on the scene, allegedly struck Atkinson with her baton after he fell to the floor following the third deployment.

She denies all charges of assault.

Forensic pathologist Olaf Bierdrzycki told the court it was “reasonable to say” the kicks to Atkinson could have knocked him unconscious. If they did, “they potentially put him in a very dangerous situation”.

“Something caused him to be unconscious and that’s the crux of the case,” Bierdrzycki said.

Bierdrzycki also acknowledged that Atkinson’s death happened soon after being Tasered and sustaining blunt force trauma, despite his health conditions.

The court also heard that the use of the Taser and kicks to the head changed Atkinson’s “trajectory to one of dying”.

Intensive care specialist Dr Jasmeet Soar told the court that the kicks and Taser were a significant factor in Atkinson’s deterioration.

He said that Atkinson’s pre-existing medical conditions, including kidney and heart problems contributed to his death. But they were not life-threatening before the use of the Taser.

Soar added that the Taser increased stress on Atkinson and the two kicks contributed to unconsciousness—a state which impaired his breathing. “I think the kicks were significant in his deterioration,” he said.

“The prolonged firing [of the Taser] and the kicks don't just happen to be a coincidence around the time he would have died anyway. That changed his trajectory to one of dying.”

The trial at Birmingham Crown Court continues.

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