The partner of ex-football star Dalian Atkinson, who died after being Tasered and kicked by a police officer, has said she is heartbroken by the “brutal” way he was treated.
West Mercia Police PC Benjamin Monk, 43, has been found guilty of the manslaughter of former Aston Villa striker Dalian Atkinson in 2016.
In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Atkinson’s partner Karen Wright paid tribute to her “funny” and “loving” partner.
Monk was cleared of an alternative charge of murder.
This is the first time a police officer has been convicted of manslaughter during the course of their duties in nearly four decades – it’s the first such conviction following the death of a Black man.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) regional director Derrick Campbell, who investigated the case, has said it has wider significance for the Black community.
He added: “The significance of today is not lost on us and the wider society. For the Black community, recent events in the US and their lived experience here make this particularly raw.”
Monk and a colleague responded to a 999 call to Mr Atikinson’s father’s house in Telford, Shropshire, in the early hours of 15 August 2016.
When they arrived, Mr Atikinson was acting in a “disturbed and erratic way” shouting that he was the “messiah”, Birmingham Crown Court was told.
Monk Tasered Mr Atikinson twice to no effect and then fired again, overriding the 5-second limit, holding the trigger for 33 seconds before kicking him twice in the head so hard that it left an imprint, the court was told.
Mr Atkinson had several health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease, and he had been undergoing kidney dialysis treatment.
The prosecution argued that, whilst Mr Atikinson’s underlying health conditions meant the footballer was at an increased risk of dying, if it wasn’t for the way he was Tasered and kicked, he would not have died.
Mr Atkinson was at his partner’s home in the hours before he died.
He was acting “erratically” and left at about midnight to travel to his father’s house in Telford.
Speaking publicly for the first time, Ms Wright said: “I just told him I loved him before he left and he never returned.”
She paid tribute to the man she had known for nearly 30 years saying he was a “funny guy with a great sense of humour”.
She said the 48-year-old was “really loving towards me” and “he made me feel so special, I miss him hugely”.
Ms Wright told this programme she was still “really affected” by what had happened, adding: “I just feel that he’s a person in my life that’s irreplaceable.”
Speaking of the Monk’s actions on the night Mr Atkinson died, Ms Wright said: “It was brutal, Dalian was kicked when he was down. It breaks my heart.”
In the wake of Mr Atkinson’s death, past and present footballers paid tribute to him.
Aston Villa and England star Jack Grealish said on Twitter that he “loved” watching videos of Mr Atkinson’s past performances while former Arsenal defender Sol Campell said he was “shocked” and “saddened” by the news.
Mr Atkinson’s friend Desmond Jaddoo said: “You’d see him on the pitch scoring goals, and the next day you’d actually just see him walking out in the community which was quite refreshing and being an icon of, particularly, the Black community.
“He never separated himself from that and I think that was the key thing about Dalian and why he was so loved.”
Reporting: Darshna Soni
Producer: Simon Stanleigh
Words: Calum Fraser