UK & World News

  • 12 February 2013, 21:35

Derby House Fire: Children's Parents On Trial

A man accused of killing his six children in a house fire started the blaze as part of a "plan" to frame his ex-girlfriend after becoming locked in a custody battle with her, a court has heard.

Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead allegedly started the fire at their semi-detached home after telling police his former partner, Lisa Willis, had been threatening him and his family.

There were emotional scenes during their manslaughter trial at Nottingham Crown Court today as the 999 call made by the couple as the fire took hold was played to the jury.

Philpott stood and tried to leave the dock saying "I can't listen to it" before being made to sit down by security officers. He sat with his hands over his ears as Mairead wiped tears away.

The prosecution said Philpott claimed he and Mairead were sleeping downstairs when the fire took hold and were only woken by a smoke alarm. He said he had tried to save the children, who were asleep upstairs.

When emergency services arrived the plastic front door had "completely melted". Firefighters managed to extinguish the flames in the hallway but had to feel their way upstairs because the smoke was so dense.

ThePhilpotts' children - Jade, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13 - were found upstairs in their beds.

Five were killed in the fire at their home in Victory Road, Allenton, Derby on May 11 last year. Duwayne died three days later in hospital.

The court was told the family shared an unconventional lifestyle. Philpott, 56, his 31-year-old wife and Ms Willis, 28, all lived in the same house.

A total of 11 children also lived there. Six were those of Mick and Mairead Philpott, while four were his with Ms Willis. Another child was Ms Willis's by another man.

The couple, along with a third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, have denied six separate counts of manslaughter in relation to the deaths.

Prosecuting, Richard Latham QC told the jury the fire was started on the day Ms Willis and Philpott were due in court to discuss the residency of the children.

The court heard Philpott preferred his relationship with Ms Willis and had spoken of divorcing Mairead and marrying her.

They had been living as a "threesome" for 10 years but Ms Willis left the house in February last year after finding the situation "unacceptable". She took her children with her, and had become embroiled in a bitter fight with Philpott.

The prosecution claims he planned to frame her and eventually win his children back, and had made numerous reports to the police that she had threatened him, his wife and their children.

Mr Latham told the jury of six men and six women: "By May 1st Mick Philpott was reporting to the police that Lisa Willis had made telephone threats to kill him.

"The police visited him, he was at times highly emotional and made it clear that he wanted Lisa arrested. If she had been this would have assisted him in the court proceedings, wouldn't it?"

About a fortnight before the fire Philpott told friends he had an idea for a way of getting Ms Willis and the children back, Mr Latham said.

"He told people he had a plan up his sleeve and that she wasn't going to get away with it - watch this space."

Mr Latham said the fire which killed the children was no accident - it had been started using petrol in the hallway of the house.

Pointing out the Philpotts were not accused of murder, he said: "This was a plan that went horribly wrong and resulted in total tragedy."

The trial is expected to last six weeks.

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