Family tribute to 'kind, caring, protective' Dalian Atkinson ahead of funeral
Relatives of Dalian Atkinson have paid tribute to him as a "kind, caring and protective" son and brother and spoken of their continuing agony at his death.
In statements issued ahead of the former Aston Villa, Shefield Wednesday and Ipswich striker's funeral this weekend, the star's sister Elaine expressed frustration at not knowing "why such force was used" by police on the night of his death.
Atkinson, aged 48, died in August after a taser was fired by police called to an incident in his home town of Telford, Shropshire.
In a joint statement issued through a law firm, siblings of Atkinson said he had struggled to come to terms with a serious illness affecting his kidneys during the last six months of his life.
The statement read: "From his earliest years, our beloved little brother had his heart set on becoming a professional football player.
"He pursued his ambition with determination, and before he had left school, his abilities had been recognised by a talent scout working on behalf of Ipswich Town.
"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.
"While he lived his dream and enjoyed the Premier League lifestyle, he remained a very loving son; and was deeply affected by our mother's passing in 1999. He never really had the heart to play any more.
"He tried to stay positive, but it was heart-breaking for us to see a further deterioration in his health with pneumonia, leaving his light and energy significantly reduced."
During his health problems, family members had done their best to support Dalian, his sister Elaine said, adding: "One comfort we have is that he knew that he was loved and he told us this.
"Dalian was supposed to have been admitted to hospital for treatment on the day he died.
"Tomorrow we want to celebrate Dalian's life but the way that he died while he was so vulnerable casts such a dark shadow over everything. Every day is filled with agony and frustration because we still do not know what happened nor understand why such force was used on him."
Meanwhile, Dalian's brother, Kenroy Atkinson, appealed for anyone who saw what happened on August 15 to come forward and speak to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
"When Dalian died, there was a lot of confusion about the events surrounding his death," he said.
"Criminal and disciplinary investigations are now being conducted to get to the truth of what happened. While these investigations are ongoing, it is crucial that no further speculation is reported and that we wait for the findings."
Relatives also revealed that on the evening before Dalian died, he spoke at length to his sister Otis about his worries and fears, his deteriorating health and the medical care he was getting.
Reflecting on his life, the retired footballer told her: "All I ever wanted was to make people happy. I played football the way that I did because I wanted to entertain. I wanted everyone to go home with smiles on their faces."
The IPCC announced in August that two West Mercia Police officers had been advised they are under criminal investigation as part of its inquiry.