Force writes to apologise for death in custody of former Aston Villa player Dalian Atkinson but his girlfriend says it is meaningless unless police make changes
The girlfriend of slain football star Dalian Atkinson reacted furiously tonight to a police apology for his tragic end at the hands of an officer – and called for a review of deaths in custody.
Karen Wright, 49, spoke out after the new chief constable of West Mercia Police wrote to formally say sorry for the ex-Aston Villa player’s death, six months after PC Benjamin Monk was jailed.
Dalian, 48, was tasered and kicked in the head at least twice by Monk while suffering a breakdown near his childhood home in Telford, Shrops, in August 2016.
This week, police boss Pippa Mills – who took over from retired Anthony Bangham in September – said human rights convention meant she was obliged to write to “acknowledge and accept” Dalian’s rights were breached.
But Karen, who met Dalian when she was 17 and rekindled their relationship in 2008, said: “It’s very easy to say sorry and this letter of apology will mean nothing if the police don’t change the way they deal with members of the public – and particularly black men.
“The trial in the summer told us that Monk was a very typical officer but faced with an unarmed black man, he responded with such brutal, unprovoked aggression that it cost Dalian his life.
“It was only because of the pressure applied to them that Monk ended up in the dock. He was the first police officer in 35 years to be convicted following a death at their hands, which shows that until now the uniform has given them immunity from the law.
Stewart Kendall/Sportsphoto Ltd)
“If police want to be taken seriously and want people to think they have changed, then they should be re-opening all the cases where they have caused deaths and reviewing them to see if charges should be brought.”
Dalian, who also played for Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, was tasered after police were called to a disturbance at his dad’s home. Birmingham Crown Court heard Monk also kicked his head “like a football”. Dalian went into cardiac arrest en route to hospital.
Monk, 43, was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years. The court heard he had kept his job with West Mercia Police in 2011 despite being found guilty of gross misconduct. He had failed to reveal cautions for theft and being drunk when he applied for his post in 2001.
Aaron Chown / SWNS.com)
A letter from West Mercia Police said: “Ben Monk’s conduct was in direct contradiction to the standards and behaviour of the policing service. I am deeply sorry for the devastating impact the actions of a West Mercia officer caused you.”
The charity Inquest charted deaths in police custody, or otherwise through contact with the police, between January 1990 and March 2020 and found that a total of 178 people who died in custody were from BAME groups – a disproportionate amount for the population.
Karen said: “In [Dalian’s] case the police have been found out but there are a lot of other families who have lost their loved ones to police actions and been denied any justice for decades.
“If the police have changed, then they will now start working with those families and trying to get them justice.”
Monk’s conviction came in a damaging year for policing. Last month, Met officers PC Deniz Jaffer, 47, and PC Jamie Lewis, 33, were jailed after taking photos of two murdered sisters they branded “dead birds”.
PC Ryan Connolly, 37, was sacked from the Merseyside force after taking and sharing photos at murder scenes.
And Met officer Wayne Couzens, 48, was jailed for life for the March kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard, 33.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.