Benjamin Monk – the man who ran for his life from an unarmed man shorter than him because he thought he was going to die – had been a police officer for 14 years by August 2016.
During that time, in his own words, he had been to “countless disorders with violent, aggressive people”, often armed with weapons including knives.
However, on August 15, 2016, when confronted with a 5ft 11in Dalian Atkinson, who was unarmed and at no stage even attempted to lay a finger on him, the 6ft and almost 15 stone officer was so terrified that he Tasered him for 33 seconds and kicked him twice in the head.
The defence argued he did it because he had to: it was life or death. The prosecution argued it was because he was angry and humiliated he had been so frightened in front of his younger girlfriend. The jury determined that he was guilty of manslaughter.
Monk was born on May 15, 1978, and grew up in the town of Bridgnorth in Shropshire where he lived with his parents. His father was in the RAF before becoming an architect and his mother was in the field of administration law for the local district council.
He has one older sister and went to schools in Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury. Monk gained a diploma in sports science from Shrewsbury College and joined the police force in 2002 when he was 23.
His first posting was at Shrewsbury Police Station, and then he was redeployed to Ludlow a few months later. All the while he was still living with his parents until he moved out in 2004 at the age of 25.
Monk was married in 2007 and he and his ex-wife had a daughter in 2009. They lived in a quiet cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Shrewsbury called Farran Grove.
Neighbours recall seeing Monk’s police car parked in the house’s designated space, coming and going at all hours. To them, he seemed perfectly pleasant. The residents in the new build houses don’t have a bad word to say about him. Monk and his ex-wife divorced in 2011, and the family left Farran Grove.
By this time, he had received Taser training which saw him shifted to the Force Operations Support Team (FOST) which was responsible for policing roads.
However, later in 2011 he was redeployed again to a different role and did not, at that stage, continue as a Taser trained officer. He was reunited with the Taser in September 2015 having been retrained.
Monk used Taser six times during career
During his career, he has only pulled out the weapon six times. The final time, combined with two kicks to the head so hard they left bootlace imprints on his forehead, effectively killed Dalian Atkinson.
Shortly after his 2010 training, Monk discharged the tool for the first. Here’s how he remembered it when giving evidence at Birmingham Crown Court:
"I was trained in Taser. There was a street in Shrewsbury called Quarry Place, and a number of other officers had gone to an incident of a man who was behaving very aggressively. There was a disorder," he said.
"I got called after the sequence of events had started, he was a very big, strong man. And he was on top of four old-fashioned house steps.
"A number of officers – four or six – were being flung around like they were toys. I had to use a Taser to save them."
That time, he fired the Taser and the man was restrained. It had worked, he told the court. Pc Monk had deployed his Taser four times after that. Not once did he pull the trigger.
During his murder trial, the jury asked if Pc Monk had previously been injured or assaulted in his 14 years as a police officer before Aug 15, 2016, and whether or not that had played into his panic.
Monk said: “It’s a good question. In my police career I’ve been to countless disorders with violent, aggressive people and there have been incidents where restraints have been necessary to control the situation.”
He went on to describe how he had previously broken his finger trying to get a non-compliant assailant out of a car and into a police van and had damaged his tendons in a separate restraint.
By 2015, Monk had established himself as the go-to man at the station, the officer who “knew everything about everything”, a colleague said. He was the officer other officers went to for advice.
West Mercia Police constable Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith arrives at Birmingham Crown Court
Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire
And that year, a young female officer joined West Mercia Police. Her name was Mary Ellen Bettley-Smith.
What started off as a friendship between them turned into a sexual relationship, and it ended with the pair stood in the dock together.
The jury were quizzical of Monk’s past during the trial. While it was stressed that his lover’s record was squeaky clean, there was no mention of his, and they wanted to know why.
Unbeknownst to them, he had been suspended in August 2016 over Atkinson’s death and only reinstated as a non-frontline officer on restrictive duties in 2018. This was short-lived, as he was suspended once again in 2019 upon being charged with murder.
In the early hours of Aug 15 Pc Monk and Pc Bettley-Smith were on the night shift, partnered together. They had started their shift at 10pm, and were scheduled to finish at 7am.
Before heading to Meadow Close in Telford where Dalian Atkinson was at his father Ernest’s house, the pair had already responded to another "level one" emergency incident.
Monk told the jury: "We were sent to the M54 motorway and it was a suicide prevention job.
"A woman who was having some difficulties in her life was threatening to jump into traffic. We managed to intervene, myself and Pc Bettley-Smith, and got her to hospital and for some treatment."
Then came the call. "I remember Ellie saying to me we’ve got a job because at the time she took the radio transmission," Pc Monk said.
"I believe she gave me an outline of the job."
What happened next would send Monk to jail, but it could have been different had he been clued up on the equipment he was carrying.
He didn’t use pepper spray because he mistakenly thought it couldn’t be used with Taser. Monk said that in hindsight he could have used the spray, but hadn’t done so because he mistakenly thought that it was not compatible with Taser due to it being flammable.
Monk Tasered Dalian Atkinson for 33 seconds and kicked him in the head
Credit: Jon Nicholson/Mail On Sunday/REX/Shutterstock
But pepper spray had replaced CS spray for that very reason: because it was not flammable and was compatible with Taser.
Instead, he Tasered Mr Atkinson for 33 seconds (five times longer than the standard practice) and kicked him in the head twice. The Crown said this killed the former footballer.
He, like his girlfriend at the time, attended court every day. At 6ft and weighing a stone heavier at 15st 13lbs or 101kg than he did in 2016, Monk is a big man, but with feminine hands.
While the court was not in session, the suited officer was seen on the top floor of the courthouse where he appeared to prefer to stand and talk to acquaintances rather than sit.
His bald head was always freshly shaved and a black facemask covered his nose and mouth per Covid-19 regulations.
As he gave evidence, he wept as he recalled the incident, and opened up on how the stress still affects him today.
‘My memory has never been 100 per cent since’
“The stress of the situation, how it’s affected me immediately after and since,” he told jurors. “And my memory has never been 100 per cent because of the stress of the situation…it was a lot of stress.”
But perhaps his most stressful moment in the witness stand came during cross-examination.
Asked why he walked away when other officers arrived, he said: “I needed a moment to myself to reflect on how lucky I was to be alive, to be talking about it today.”
Alexandra Healy QC for the prosecution snapped back dismissively: “How close were you to death, though? You hadn’t been touched, you weren’t injured, he didn’t have a weapon.”
Monk was found guilty of manslaughter, which is likely to leave him plenty of time to reflect on how he could have done things differently from his cell.
Jurors continue to deliberate whether Bettley-Smith assaulted Mr Atkinson.