A police officer accused of assaulting ex-Villa star Dalian Atkinson has told a jury she was “very, very frightened” when she struck him with a baton in an effort to restrain him.
Pc Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith denies acting unlawfully when she struck the former Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town star prior to his death in 2016 in Telford.
Prosecutors allege West Mercia officer Bettley-Smith angrily struck the 48-year-old when he was “no longer a threat” after he was tasered to the ground by Pc Benjamin Monk, who was jailed for manslaughter following a previous trial.
Giving evidence in the third week of a re-trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Bettley-Smith denied she had acted out of anger while attempting to restrain Mr Atkinson in Meadow Close, Telford on August 15 2016.
At the start of her evidence, defence KC Richard Smith asked Bettley-Smith: “Did you hit Dalian Atkinson with your police baton simply because you were angry with him?”
Bettley-Smith answered: “I did not.”
The 32-year-old officer also denied that she had used her baton “simply because she was told to” by Monk, telling the court: “I hit Mr Atkinson with my baton after the third Taser.
“I still perceived him as a threat so I used my police baton to try and keep him on the floor… to try and restrain him.”
Asked what her principal emotion was at that stage, Bettley-Smith told the court: “I was terrified – very, very frightened.”
Bettley-Smith told jurors she had a degree in social work from the University of Hull and that she had worked at a college supporting students with learning difficulties, before volunteering as a special constable.
In February 2015, the court heard, Bettley-Smith joined West Mercia Police as a full-time probationary officer – with her job being one she remained very proud of.
Telling jurors she had never before drawn her baton during her active duties or been forced to press the emergency button on her radio, Bettley-Smith added: “I had no knowledge or experience of the Taser.”
Describing Mr Atkinson as appearing “huge” during the incident, Bettley-Smith added: “He just looked so angry. He looked like he wanted to fight.”
Claiming an initial Taser firing had no effect on Mr Atkinson, Bettley-Smith told jurors: “My expectation was that Mr Atkinson would go down or do something. There was literally no reaction.”
At that point, Bettley-Smith said, she was terrified and it was “horrendous” to see the Taser used to no effect.
She told the jury that after the first Taser cartridge had been fired by Pc Monk, he said to run and they did exactly that.
Bettley-Smith said: “All of this happened in such a quick amount of time. It’s hard to put into words all these years later, but it was terrifying. You have had a Taser fail.
“It was a very frightening experience. I think in my interview I said my life flashed before my eyes and that is still to this day a good representation of how I felt.
“It was incredibly scary. I was terrified throughout until everybody else got there to help.”
Asked by Mr Smith what her memory was like six years after the events in question, Bettley-Smith said: “Some things I can remember very, very clearly, as if it was yesterday. Other things are quite blurry and some things I don’t remember at all.”
The Crown alleges that Bettley-Smith struck Mr Atkinson several times with a baton “perhaps in anger” and perhaps because she was told to by Pc Monk.
Earlier in the re-trial, Mr Smith submitted that Monk had “made his own decision” to kick Mr Atkinson and that Bettley-Smith genuinely believed the former England B footballer still posed a threat to her and potentially others.
“The use of her baton was necessary and reasonable to protect and to continue to restrain,” Mr Smith told the court.
Bettley-Smith denies assault occasioning actual bodily harm. The trial continues.