Police officer charged with murder of ex-footballer Dalian Atkinson - National
A police constable has appeared in court charged with the murder of former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson.
The striker died after being tasered near his father's home in Telford in 2016.
The West Mercia Police officer appeared at Birmingham Magistrates' Court on Thursday along with a colleague who has been accused of assault causing actual bodily harm.
Both officers appeared before a deputy district judge and were not asked their name, address or date of birth.
Instead, they were referred to in court as Constables A and B.
Constable B indicated a not guilty plea to a charge of assault and she was granted bail to appear at Birmingham Crown Court later on Thursday.
Officer A was remanded in custody to appear at the same hearing and he was not asked to indicate a plea.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement earlier on Thursday: ‘Following the death of Dalian Atkinson in Telford on 15 August 2016, the Crown Prosecution Service has today authorised a charge of murder against a West Mercia police constable.
‘A second police constable, from the same force, has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH).
‘Mr Atkinson's family has been informed.
‘This decision was made following a careful review of all the evidence presented to us by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) following an investigation.’
The officer charged with murder has also been charged with unlawful act manslaughter as an alternative offence which, the CPS said, ‘is a lesser offence that a jury may consider if it first finds that the more serious charge has not been proved’.
Speaking on behalf of the family of Mr Atkinson, solicitor Kate Maynard, of Hickman and Rose, said: ‘Dalian's family welcomes the decision to put the conduct of police officers before a jury but regrets that already more than three years have passed since Dalian died.
‘They ask for their privacy to be respected and press for the criminal proceedings to progress without delay or obstruction.’
The decision to charge both officers comes after the case was referred to the CPS to consider potential charges by the police watchdog the IOPC.
Three West Mercia Police officers were interviewed twice under criminal caution and served with gross misconduct notices following Mr Atkinson's death.
The retired 48-year-old, who also played for Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, died after police used a Taser during an incident in the Trench area of Telford.
Relatives said Mr Atkinson was suffering a number of health issues and had a weak heart when a Taser was deployed in the early hours of early hours of Monday August 15, 2016.
He went into cardiac arrest in an ambulance on his way to hospital and medics were unable to save him.
At the time, West Mercia Police said officers were called amid concerns ‘for the safety of an individual’.
The IOPC said its investigation gathered evidence which indicated that police contact with Mr Atkinson involved the use of a Taser, followed by a period of restraint and other uses of force.
In a statement issued by Mr Atkinson's siblings after his death, they said: 'Dalian grew to be a kind, caring and protective brother, with a lively personality: he was funny and cheeky.
‘He always brought life and energy to family gatherings - when Dalian turned up, we knew there would be laughter and banter.’