Derby fire: I didn’t plan to play hero, says father

Michael Philpott after the tragedy. Picture: PA
Michael Philpott after the tragedy. Picture: PA
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A FATHER has told a court he did not want to be seen as a hero for rescuing his six children from a blaze at his home, which he is accused of starting.

In cross-examination yesterday, prosecutor Richard Latham QC accused Michael Philpott of using petrol to set the fire at the bottom of the stairs of his home in Derby before going to rescue the children.

“You lit it at the bottom of the stairs. Your plan was to go out and rescue your children and be a hero,” Mr Latham said. He added: “You were going to unlock the window and be a hero and a victim at the same time.”

Philpott replied: “Definitely not.”

The 56-year-old is accused of six counts of manslaughter along with 31-year-old wife Mairead and a third defendant Paul Mosley, 47, following the blaze at their home on 11 May last year, which claimed the lives of their six children. The three deny the charges.

The prosecution has alleged Philpott set the fire to frame his former mistress Lisa Willis after she walked out of the family home in February taking her five children with her, four of whom he fathered.

The court has heard Philpott was set to face Miss Willis in court on the day of the fatal blaze over residency of the five children.

The court also heard Philpott told police in the hours after the blaze that he found a large fire at the bottom of the stairs after opening the kitchen door.

He described the flames to police as large and all over the stairway, Mr Latham told the court yesterday.

In his police interview after his arrest, Philpott told police he saw “a bright light” around the hallway door when he opened the kitchen door. He told officers he did not know it was a fire at that point until there was an “explosion” and smoke and flames poured through it.

Mr Latham asked Philpott: “From where you were you couldn’t see the stairway could you?” He said the only way Philpott could have seen the flames was if he was in the hallway at the time the fire was set.

Mr Latham then asked Philpott why he had not used water or a fire extinguisher in the kitchen to try to put out the fire.

“The only thing on my mind was to get outside and get to my children,” Philpott replied.

“It was all part of the plan to go out the back wasn’t it?” Mr Latham asked him.

Philpott replied: “There was no plan.”

Mr Latham asked him about a pair of ladders that were outside the house on the night of the fire. “They just happened to be there did they?” he asked Philpott. “You could get straight up to [the] very place you wanted to go,” Mr Latham added.

Philpott told the court he had used the ladders while cleaning the conservatory in the weeks before the fire.

But Mr Latham alleged it was all part of the plan for Philpott to use the ladders to get up to the bedroom and rescue his children after he lit the fire.

Mr Latham added: “The plan was light the fire, make the 999 call, rescue the children with the ladder out of the back window”.

Philpott shook his head and said: “I did not light that fire.”

The trial continues.