PC who beat ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson guilty of gross misconduct

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PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith used excessive force against the former Aston Villa striker

A PC who repeatedly beat ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson the night he was killed by her colleague has been found guilty of serious misconduct.

Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith hit the former Aston Villa striker six times with her stick as he was on the ground in 2016.

She was acquitted of actual bodily harm at trial, but the police watchdog called for a hearing on serious misconduct.

A panel decided that the West Mercia police officer had indeed used excessive force, but ruled she could keep her job.

Mr Atkinson died after being tasered and kicked in the head outside his father’s home in Telford, Shropshire.

PC Bettley-Smith’s colleague and partner, PC Benjamin Monk, was convicted of manslaughter in 2021.

image source, Getty Images

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Dalian Atkinson had a successful career with clubs such as Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town

The panel previously heard how the officers, who were in a relationship at the time, had responded to a 999 call and arrived to find Mr Atkinson appearing “in the throes of a psychotic episode”.

PC Betley-Smith initially slapped Mr. Atkinson three times, which the panel ruled was legal.

But it ruled a further three strikes were “unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all circumstances and therefore illegal”.

Mr Atkinson died after being tasered and kicked in the head at least twice by Monk, who was a more experienced officer.

The panel was told that PC Bettley-Smith used her baton on the former player, claiming she “saw” him trying to get up.

However, several civilian witnesses recalled that the 48-year-old “didn’t move” and “didn’t resist”.

image source, Police West Mercia

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PC Benjamin Monk’s trial learned that the two officers were in a relationship at the time of the 911 call

The independent tribunal ruled that she had acted wrongly when she beat him again after the police arrived.

Earlier in the week, the panel was told that before his death Mr Atkinson was “plagued by health problems”, including end-stage kidney failure requiring dialysis and significant heart problems.

The ex-footballer, who began his career at Ipswich Town before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa and Fenerbahçe in the 1990s, died about an hour after the attack.


Monk’s criminal trial heard that police had been called to Meadow Close at about 1:30am BST on 15 August 2016, where Mr Atkinson was in the midst of a nervous breakdown claiming to be the Messiah.

Judge Inman said he had “suddenly lost touch with reality” and was “unrecognizable” to those who knew him.

When officers arrived, they claimed to be “terrified” of the sportsman.

image source, Getty Images

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Meadow Close in Trench was closed after the incident

Prosecutor Tijen Basu KC previously told the disciplinary panel PC Bettley-Smith’s second set of strikes was “completely unreasonable, completely unwarranted and above all, to use normal language, it was outrageous to do so in the circumstances”.

The officer, who denied using excessive force, said in evidence: “I just remember what I saw as a really aggressive, hostile, growling and just thought we antagonized him even more by tasering him. .”

But three different residents watching from their windows described Mr Atkinson lying still on the floor after being tasered, with one adding “when he fell he didn’t move”.

Chairman Karimulla Khan, who delivered the panel’s findings, said: “In those circumstances, the panel finds that the first three blows with the stick were lawful.

“There was then the intermediate kick, by PC Monk, after which PC Bettley-Smith applied a second set of three baton attacks.

“And the panel finds that the second set of three baton attacks was unnecessary, disproportionate and unreasonable in all circumstances and was therefore unlawful.”

image source, Getty Images

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Dalian Atkinson has scored 23 goals in 85 appearances for Aston Villa

Following the decision, Mr. Basu said PC Bettley-Smith’s conduct had been serious, but the circumstances were also complex and fast-paced, and the panel had viewed her actions in context.

“She was clearly on the fringe of PC Monk’s actions, which were completely different, different stages of magnitude.”

Patrick Gibbs KC, acting for PC Bettley-Smith, said the past six and a half years had been “considerable punishment in itself”.

He said her behavior up to that point had been “admirable, certainly unquestionable” and that her unlawful baton attacks had occurred in the space of 27 seconds, after which she had again displayed “admirable behaviour”.

“This implies a miscalculation in the heat of battle in the measure of force that was yet to be used,” he added.

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