Football News A police officer has been charged with the murder of retired footballer Dalian Atkinson who died after being tasered.
The ex-Aston Villa striker, 48, was restrained by police officers at his father’s house in Telford, Shropshire, on 15 August 2016.
A second police officer, also from the West Mercia Police force, has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm.
Both were bailed after appearing at Birmingham Crown Court.
The Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) has not named the officers because it believes their defense will apply for them to remain anonymous.
Judge Simon Drew allowed the officers’ identities to remain undisclosed over concerns there may be a threat to their lives, although this will be reviewed at a hearing next week.
An alternative charge of unlawful act manslaughter has also been put forward by the CPS for the officer charged with murder, known as “Officer A”.
The second officer, “Officer B”, indicated she would plead not guilty and was bailed after an earlier appearance at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.
Officer A did not indicate a plea but was also granted bail at a later hearing at the city’s crown court.
The CPS made the decision to press charges following an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
Mr Atkinson’s family has been informed, a spokesperson said, and issued a statement welcoming the decision but they “regret that already more than three years have passed since Dalian died”.
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Police officers attended Meadow Close in Trench, Telford, where Mr Atkinson was detained outside an address at about 01:30 BST.
He was taken by ambulance to the Princess Royal Hospital where he later died.
By Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent
It’s rare for a police officer to be charged with murder following the death of someone they were in contact with on duty.
The last time this happened in the UK was five years ago, when Anthony Long, a retired Metropolitan Police firearms officer, was charged with the murder of robbery suspect Azelle Rodney.
He was shot dead in north-west London in 2005, but 10 years later Mr Long was acquitted.
The exact circumstances of Dalian Atkinson’s death haven’t been revealed and it is not known whether the Taser contributed to, or caused, his death.
However this is believed to be the first time an officer has been charged with murder after a person has been tasered by police.
Relatives said the former footballer was suffering from a number of health issues and had a weak heart when the Taser was deployed.
Mr Atkinson started his career at Ipswich Town before moving to Sheffield Wednesday, Real Sociedad, Aston Villa and Fenerbahçe in Turkey.
He is best remembered for scoring the Match of the Day goal of the season in 1992-93 when he dribbled the ball from inside his own half before chipping the Wimbledon keeper from the edge of the penalty area.
In a statement, West Mercia Police said: “Our thoughts continue to remain with the family and friends of Dalian Atkinson at this difficult time.”
Chief Constable Anthony Bangham said it would not be appropriate to comment on the circumstances around Mr Atkinson’s death, but added he would ensure the officers in question “have the appropriate support throughout the forthcoming criminal justice process”.
The IOPC said it appreciates the “patience” shown during their investigation, which concluded in October 2018.
Actions of a third police officer, who was also investigated over Mr Atkinson’s death, were not referred to the CPS, the watchdog added.
Both defendants are next expected to appear in court on 9 December. However, a hearing on Wednesday will decide whether they can be named following an application by the media.
Dalian Atkinson’s career
- Dalian Atkinson started his footballing career as an apprentice with Ipswich
- He signed for Sheffield Wednesday for £450,000 in 1989
- His sole international appearance was with the England B team in 1990, against Ireland
- In August 1990 Atkinson moved to Spain, joining Real Sociedad for £1.7m
- Ron Atkinson signed him for a second time in July 1991 – bringing him back to England to play for Aston Villa
- His strike against Wimbledon was named the goal of the 1992-93 season
- Atkinson joined Turkish side Fenerbahçe in 1995, but failed to settle
- He later played for Manchester City as well as clubs in Saudi Arabia and South Korea