Kicks and Taser discharge contributed to death of Dalian Atkinson, court told

·3-min read

Pain caused by a Taser and at least two kicks to the head of Dalian Atkinson “changed his trajectory to one of dying”, an emergency department doctor has told a court.

Dr Jasmeet Soar, a specialist in intensive care medicine, told the trial of Pc Benjamin Monk that kicks by the officer and a 33-second Taser cartridge deployment were significant factors in the ex-Aston Villa star’s deterioration.

The West Mercia Police constable, who denies murder and manslaughter, is standing trial alongside fellow Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, who has pleaded not guilty to assault, after striking Atkinson with a baton.

Dalian Atkinson
Dalian Atkinson, pictured in 1991, during his time at Aston Villa (PA)

A trial at Birmingham Crown Court has been told Monk said Atkinson, who had been tasered to the ground, was “very, very obviously attempting to get up” before he kicked him, in Meadow Close, Telford, on August 15 2016.

Giving evidence from the witness box on the sixteenth day of the trial, Dr Soar said he had been asked to prepare a report on the death for the Independent Office for Police Conduct.

Answering questions from Crown QC Alexandra Healy, Dr Soar told the court Atkinson’s pre-existing medical conditions, including kidney disease and an enlarged heart, his apparent mental health crisis, the use of a Taser, and kicks to the head, had all contributed to the 48-year-old’s death.

Asked if Atkinson, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, had been at risk of sudden death on August 15, Dr Soar said: “Yes, although clearly it hadn’t occurred that day.

“Everybody has a very low baseline risk of death.

“His (Atkinson’s) risk of death was much higher than that baseline, but on any given day his risk of death was still small.”

After being invited to give his view on the impact of psychological stress on the retired footballer before he was detained by police, Dr Soar said he believed it was of a “much lower level” than the physiological stress caused by being tasered or kicked, and would not have led to death on its own.

Dalian Atkinson death
West Mercia Police Constables Benjamin Monk and Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith outside court (Jacob King/PA)

Ms Healy asked the witness: “Did you form a view about the physical state that Mr Atkinson was in before the application of the third Taser cartridge?”

Dr Soar responded: “He was clearly alive… speaking, walking or running and clearly wasn’t debilitated. So at that time, in my opinion, he didn’t have an immediate life-threatening condition.”

The witness said the final Taser 33-second discharge, causing serious pain, occurred within 28 minutes of the subsequent cardiac arrest, although he believed it led to increased stress on Atkinson rather than directly to heart arrhythmia.

Dr Soar went on: “Mr Atkinson did have at least two kicks, based on the forensic evidence, to his head. They clearly left marks on his forehead.

“Those kicks were clearly of significance because they contributed to unconsciousness and unconsciousness leads to impairment of breathing and your ability to get oxygen into the body.

“I think the kicks were significant in his deterioration.

“In my opinion the contributors to Dalian Atkinson’s death were his pre-existing medical conditions, his mental state, the use of the Taser and kicks to the head.”

Although the existing medical conditions had placed Atkinson at increased risk, the witness added: “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 continues.

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