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Premier League

Dalian Atkinson’s grieving girlfriend says slain footballer was ‘hounded’ by police


The grief-stricken girlfriend of slain footballer Dalian Atkinson tonight claimed: “He was harassed for life by police.”

Karen Wright, 49, spoke out after the officer who Tasered former Aston Villa ace Dalian, 48, was convicted of manslaughter.

Karen, hoping for the maximum jail term of 16 years when PC Benjamin Monk is sentenced on Monday, said: “My beloved Dee was sick of police. He felt he was hounded.”

In an exclusive interview, Karen…

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Likened the former Premier League striker’s death to the police killing of George Floyd in the US.

Revealed her lover successfully complained to the police watchdog over his treatment in a roadside stop three years before his death.

Claimed an officer pointed to his baton after Dalian was Tasered and callously told her: “It was either the Taser or the tickle stick.”

Karen Wright
Dalian Atkinson’s girlfriend Karen Wright

Karen said: “Dee was just a gorgeous soul. He’s had life-long harassment from the police. He felt as though he was hounded by police.

“He was doing nothing wrong. The police were the last people he needed on the night he died. They inflamed the situation.”

Karen has had to wait nearly five years for justice – and watch in horror at black American George Floyd’s killing by white cop Derek Chauvin, who was jailed for 22 years this week.

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Karen, who gave evidence at PC Monk’s trial, said: “The last five years have been torture.

“I’ve been angry for five years, I’ve been frustrated for five years, I’ve watched the George Floyd trial.

Dalian with his friend in San Sebastián when he was with Real Sociedad in the early 1990s
Dalian with his friend in San Sebastián when he was with Real Sociedad in the early 1990s

“Dalian is the UK’s George Floyd. Dalian is the messenger to our justice system.

“I went to the George Floyd protests here and I stood with a banner, ‘Justice for Dalian’.”

Karen, who runs a cleaning business, met Dalian at a party when she was 17.

They were together for almost a decade, then split before reuniting when Dalian turned 40.

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Villa fans in the week Dalian died
Villa fans in the week Dalian died

She said: “He contacted me on Facebook and he came to stay. I couldn’t believe it. I already had my two boys.

“I always wanted his children but Dee never wanted children. Dee was the only man in my dreams. He loved my boys and he loved me. We hit it off again – we were rekindled.

“He was so caring. He would always run me a bath, he’d look after me. He made me feel like no other. He was so compassionate.

“I could never love anybody the way I loved Dee. I would have married him in a heartbeat.”

Dalian on a holiday abroad in the early 1990s
Dalian on a holiday abroad in the early 1990s

Dalian’s 2013 watchdog complaint related to officers arresting him after he failed to give his name when he was stopped in Shrewsbury, Shrops.

Karen said: “He was just a black man in a Mercedes and he was taken to the police station. He was poorly treated – he felt he had done nothing wrong and he thought it was excessive. He lived with that through his entire life.”

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Dalian, who played for Spain’s Real Sociedad before joining Villa in 1991, was killed just hours before he was due to visit a private clinic – in a move organised by the Professional Footballers Association – to be seen about his high blood pressure, heart ­disease and kidney failure.

PC Monk went to Dalian’s dad Ernest’s house in Telford, Shrops, after a neighbour reported shouting on August 15, 2016.

Police constables Benjamin Monk and Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith arriving at Birmingham Crown Court
Police constables Benjamin Monk and Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith arriving at Birmingham Crown Court

Dalian was suffering mental health problems and paranoia brought on by his kidneys failing to clear toxic chemicals. When PC Monk arrived, unarmed Dalian screamed: “You can put 100,000 volts through me, I’m the Messiah.”

He was Tasered for 33 seconds and had two bootlace prints on his forehead after the incident, witnessed by 11 neighbours. Dalian died on a 10-minute ambulance trip after suffering a cardio-respiratory ­arrest when he was handcuffed.

During the six-week trial at Birmingham Crown Court, Monk told jurors he acted proportionately in trying to restrain Dalian, saying he was “absolutely petrified” of the footballer, who had a “face of utter rage”.

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Dalian Atkinson with his Ferrari during his Aston Villa days
Dalian Atkinson with his Ferrari during his Aston Villa days

Karen said: “The police told us they had Tasered him and I said, ‘Why have you Tasered a poorly man?’ One of them sat on the sofa leant forward, showed his baton and said, ‘It was either the Taser or the tickle stick’. Then a copper came in and said, ‘Dalian has been taken to hospital, he’s gone into cardiac arrest and we’ve not been able to resuscitate him’. I just fell on the floor. We were all in shock.”

Karen went to see Dalian’s body so she could come to terms with her loss.

A jury took nearly 19 hours to unanimously clear Monk, 43, of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter.

Dalian Atkinson during a match on March 30, 1992
Dalian Atkinson during a match on March 30, 1992

The jury could not come to a verdict on an assault charge against PC Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith, 31, who is also Monk’s ex-girlfriend. Monk’s conviction is for an offence called unlawful act manslaughter.

The judge will decide what level of culpability should be attributed to him. If it is a high level, the sentence could be between eight and 16 years.

Karen said she wanted the term to send the strongest possible message about police brutality. She said: “There are no winners in this. The conviction of manslaughter is a result and I feel there is justice served.”

But she added: “Hearing Monk try to justify what he did was really difficult. It haunts me. It’s one of the last voices Dee heard as he took his final breath.”

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Tonight, a West Mercia police spokesman said: “West Mercia Police had only two previous interactions with Dalian Atkinson, both relating to traffic issues. We cannot comment on any interaction he may have had with other police forces.

“We can confirm in 2013 we received a complaint from Mr Atkinson in connection with a traffic offence. The complaint was partially upheld. It related to administrative ­errors and the matter was addressed by way of management action.”

He said the claim that Karen was told it was “either the taser or the tickle stick” is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct.





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