Dalian Atkinson was a maverick. A genuine attacking threat whose talent was never tapped into by the England national team.
Born in Shrewsbury on March 21, 1968, his first professional contract came at Ipswich Town where he played 60 games, scoring 18 times.
He netted more than 10 goals for Sheffield Wednesday, Real Sociedad and the Turkish team Fenerbahçe, but it was in the West Midlands that he cemented his legacy.
He was adored by Aston Villa fans, not least for his goal of the season in the 1992-93 season where he picked the ball up in his own half, danced through defenders on a mazy run before sending an audacious chip over the head of the flailing Wimbledon goalkeeper.
Atkinson celebrated in typical fashion, his chest puffed, arms outstretched to his supporters.
Some 24 years later, witnesses saw the exact same stance. Except this time, he wasn’t in a packed-out stadium facing his adoring fans. He was outside his father Ernest’s home facing the police officer who would kill him with a 33-second Taser charge and two kicks to the head.
‘He was not in his right mind’
By this time, Atkinson was not the man he once was. In his father’s own words "he was not in his right mind" the morning he was killed.
Having retired from professional football in 2001, Atkinson struggled with heart and kidney disease. And it appeared the weight of his illness was having an impact on his mental health.
In the weeks leading up to his death, Atkinson had several premonitions that the police were going to kill him.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how he had become "quite convinced he was going to be killed or he wasn’t going to be with us any more", insisting "the NHS or the police will kill me".
In the days leading up to his death, Atkinson had become increasingly unhappy with the Players Football Association, the union for all current and former footballers, which had been paying for his travel to and from hospital for NHS treatment at a considerable cost.
Dalian Atkinson cemented his legacy in the West Midlands and was adored by Aston Villa fans
Credit: Jon Nicholson/Mail On Sunday/REX/Shutterstock
However, Atkinson wanted the PFA to fly him to the US to get treatment involving seaweed from an unlicensed doctor, the Telegraph has learnt. The doctor in question had been previously sued multiple times for practicing without a license, but Atkinson was convinced that the rogue medic could cure his kidney disease.
The very first witness called in the murder trial was the ex-footballer’s girlfriend Karen Wright. She told the court she had known Atkinson – who she called "D" – for 27 years and for the last eight years of his life was his girlfriend.
Atkinson was living with a friend, Jonteh Walters, at the time of his death, and Ms Wright had been staying with them for the weekend immediately before he died.
Deteriorating mental health
On the Sunday morning, hours before he died, he had got up for a wash before going to get his hair cut, Ms Wright told the court.
She said: "When he initially got up, he went for a wash. Because of his dialysis line he couldn’t get in the shower so had to wash with the flannel and struggled because he wanted to be clean."
His deteriorating mental health was clear to his family even before the fateful trip to his father’s house on August 15, 2016.
Ms Wright, recalling the events of Sunday August 14, said that her boyfriend unzipped his tracksuit and ripped the dialysis tube out of his body. Atkinson appeared "stressed", she said, and he was saying; "I’m going to hospital tomorrow and I’m going to be free".
She told the court: "He unzipped his jacket and he pulled his t-shirt to one side and then I heard the tape over the line come off and I just said, ‘no, stop’, and he pulled the line out.
"He pulled it out and it splashed all over Jonteh."
Atkinson shouted: "I’m free. I don’t need it. I’m going to get better."
Ms Wright tried to get near him to compress the wound where the tube had come out, but his friend Mr Walters urged Atkinson to throw the line in the bin, which he did.
Atkinson convinced family was plotting to kill him
It wasn’t the only alarm bell that day. Atkinson lost his temper regarding a pizza after having taken to eating vegetarian food. And the former professional sportsman had run out of credit on his mobile phone.
Things would get darker. Atkinson was also convinced his family was plotting to kill him. He told his brother Paul he was "plotting against the wrong person" and that he was the "Messiah" around two hours before he was Tasered.
Atkinson and his father were due at the private BMI Alexandra Hospital on August 15, but Dalian wanted to discuss it with his father in the early hours.
Ms Wright had attempted and failed to put credit on Atkinson’s Blackberry mobile phone, and she then texted her boyfriend before phoning him at around 1.30am.
When Atkinson answered, Ms Wright said: "I could hear his father. He was in the background. I could hear him saying Dalian’s name."
The next thing she heard was her boyfriend saying to someone: "Do you know who you’re speaking to?"
Ms Wright said she heard him say this twice, and then the phone line went dead. It was the last thing she heard him say.
She went to Meadow Close after Atkinson’s brother, Paul, told her that Dalian had been arrested. When she arrived, she saw Ernest on his chair, police officers inside and broken glass by the front door. It was here that she was told her boyfriend was dead.
Ernest died before knowing what happened on the night his son died. His home in Meadow Close remains empty.
‘I’m the Messiah and I’ve come to kill you’
Ernest said his son had not been in his right mind on the morning he died. Dalian had arrived at his house between 1.05am and 1.10am. By the time Ernest got dressed and went downstairs, his son was "pounding on the door", the jury were told. He opened the door and Dalian Atkinson walked inside, closing the door behind him. Dalian told Ernest that he loved him, and asked why he and the rest of the family were plotting to kill him.
Ernest recalled his son saying: "I’m alive, I’m the Messiah, and I’ve come to kill you." Dalian was describing himself as a "born-again Christian", and Ernest said his son was "angry and angry at himself".
Dalian then grabbed his father by the throat and pushed him down into a chair, telling him not to move otherwise he would kill Paul and Kenroy, Mr Atkinson’s other sons.
Dalian asked his father "how much they’d paid him in their part to kill Dalian". The court heard how Dalian said that Ernest was "not going to die yet".
He watched his son walk towards the officers with his hands out. He then heard his son say: "You’re going to Taser me. I’m the Messiah. You can’t hurt me."
Ernest told his son had died
Ernest said in his statement that he assumed the police would be able to calm his son down, but the next thing he heard was a big bang, which turned out to be the glass on his front door breaking.
At this point he attempted to leave the house by the back door, but when he noticed the commotion outside had quietened, he returned to see what was happening.
He saw a male and a female police officer and the male Pc told him that his son was "fine" and had been taken away in an ambulance.
They sat him down to take a witness statement and a short time later another officer came into his kitchen to tell him his son had died.