A COUPLE have been convicted of killing their six children in a high-risk revenge plot that went horribly wrong.
“Controlling and manipulative” Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead were found guilty of manslaughter yesterday, following an eight-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court.
Paul Mosley, 46, a friend of the couple, was convicted of the same charge over the devastating fire at the family home in Derby on 11 May last year.
Jade Philpott, ten, and brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13, died when a petrol-fuelled blaze tore through their council house.
They had been sleeping upstairs when the fire was started near the front door, inside the three-bed semi, at 3:45am.
It was part of Mick Philpott’s elaborate plot to frame his former mistress, Lisa Willis, 29, who had left the family home three months earlier.
She and her six children, five of whom were fathered by Philpott, had lived with the couple and their six children for ten years before they left in February last year.
Philpott, who was supposed to meet Miss Willis at a residency hearing that same day, had intended to blame her for starting the fire. He had already made false claims to police that Miss Willis was harassing and threatening his family.
Prosecutors said his motive could have been a desire for a bigger house, or simply to get his children and girlfriend back.
Philpott had planned to “act the hero and victim” by rescuing the children from the burning home.
But within two minutes it was clear the plan had gone wrong. The fire was out of control.
He had intended to use a ladder propped against the back of the house, smash a window and get the children out. But the heat was too strong and the smoke too thick.
The court heard an emotional 999 call as the desperate couple begged for help. Philpott sobbed in the witness box as he listened.
When firefighters arrived, they found the children in each of the three upstairs bedrooms. Five died in the blaze. Duwayne passed away in hospital.
Speaking outside court yesterday, Samantha Shallow, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Today’s verdict shows that the children died as a result of the actions of Michael and Mairead Philpott and Paul Mosley when they set the fire.
“It was started as a result of a plan between the three of them to turn family court proceedings in Mr Philpott’s favour. It was a plan that went disastrously and tragically wrong.
“This has been a challenging and harrowing case to prosecute. I am grateful that so many people from the local community came to court and gave evidence. This cannot have been easy, and I would like to thank them for coming forward and enabling us to get to the truth.
“Amid all the details of the defendants’ personal lives … it should not be forgotten that at the heart of this case were the deaths of six innocent children.”
The guilty trio will be sentenced today.
As the jury delivered its verdicts, Philpott stood staring straight ahead with his hands clasped in front of him. He shook his head when his wife was found guilty by majority.
She looked down and fought back tears, while clutching a tissue in both her hands.
Before leaving the dock, Philpott crossed himself and said: “It’s not over yet.”
People in the public gallery erupted in tears and shouts as the verdicts came in.
Previously, Richard Latham, QC, prosecuting, had said Philpott was the “prime mover and dominant player” in the scheme.
The unemployed father of 17 children by five mothers became notorious after appearing on The Jeremy Kyle Show and in a documentary with former MP Ann Widdecombe.
After Miss Willis left him, mothers at his children’s school said he boasted of having a “plan up his sleeve” to get her and his children back and to “watch this space”.
Before she left, the family had an unconventional living arrangement. Miss Willis told the court the two women would take turns sleeping with Philpott. She would bed down with him in the caravan, while his wife would sleep with him in the conservatory.
Jurors heard that Mrs Philpott was terrified of losing her husband, whom she described as her “guardian angel”.
Mrs Philpott was treated like a slave by her husband, who also persuaded her to participate in various sexual activities.
Meanwhile, Philpott’s previous partners described him as physically and verbally abusive, controlling and manipulative.
Outside court, Derbyshire Chief Constable Steve Cotterill said: “This has to be one of, if not the most upsetting case any of us has ever investigated.
“Six young children lost their lives needlessly in a fire and all our efforts have been focused on getting justice for those children.”
He added: “I want to pay tribute to the bravery shown by the firefighters, the police officers and, more importantly, the neighbours who tried to rescue the children.”
• Duwayne Ashley Philpott, 13, was described as a caring, quiet child, who loved music and was learning to play the violin. As the oldest, he became the protector for his younger brothers and sister. He enjoyed sport, especially football. His teachers described him as ‘modest, hard-working and always looking to improve his skills’.
• John Simon David Philpott, nine, was described by his teachers as cheerful, smiley and polite. Known as ‘the cheeky chappy’, he had a ‘daredevil personality’ and wanted to be a soldier when he was older.
• Jack Elvis Aaron Philpott, eight, was described as a typical ‘blue-eyed boy’, ‘bashful and shy’, who was a delight to be around. He loved to spend time on his Nintendo DS and was a real ‘computer geek’. His headteacher remembered him as a pupil who was eager to learn.
• Jesse James Philpott, six, was said to be mischievous at home, but caring and loving to his younger brother Jayden. His teachers described him as a cheerful pupil.
• Jade Louise PhiLpott, ten, was ‘mother hen’ to her younger brothers and could always been seen carrying them around. She very intelligent and praised by teachers. Patricia Hurn, headteacher at St George’s Roman Catholic Primary School, said Jade had been part of the school’s chaplaincy team, had a talent for boosting class morale and had impeccable manners.
• Jayden Callum Philpott, five, who had been born prematurely, was described as a boy who became a ‘whirlwind’ who loved playing outside and was always messy and getting into play fights with his siblings. He made friends easily at school and loved food – and would eat several packet of crisps in one go if given the opportunity.
Mick and Mairead Philpott’s crime is one that has shocked and horrified the nation.
The couple, especially Mick Philpott, have become notorious over the years for their “unconventional” family.
Appearances on The Jeremy Kyle Show, a frequent and forthright presence on social networking sites and comments to newspapers about living with wife Mairead as well as girlfriend Lisa Willis led to conjecture and speculation about how Mick Philpott managed to live in such a way.
Although many people could not understand why the women in his life accepted their lot, or even desired it, general opinion was that Mrs Philpott and Miss Willis got on well.
It is believed that weeks before the fatal blaze, the relationship between Miss Willis and Mick Philpott was over and they had become locked in a custody battle over her six children, including five by Philpott.
Philpott said he could understand why people were shocked at the way his family lived – how he would spend a few nights in his caravan and one night would be spent with Mrs Philpott and the next with Miss Willis – but could not understand why they felt disgust.
This untraditional lifestyle also led to Philpott being dubbed “Shameless Mick” in 2007 for his benefit claims and refusal to get a job, in a documentary by former MP Ann Widdecombe.
He hit the headlines the year before, when he demanded Derby City Council rehouse him and his large family because the four-bed house they had been allocated was too small.
At the time, Miss Willis was expecting his 15th child and Philpott claimed that when two of his other children visited, he and his wife had to sleep in a tent in the back garden.
In the aftermath of the six children’s deaths, feeling on the Allenton estate was one of unity and support for the Philpotts.
Many people who socialised with Mick Philpott and his family – said to have included 17 of his biological children – defended his lifestyle.
Children didn’t stand a chance as 500C blaze tore through bedrooms
Six youngsters who died in a petrol-fuelled blaze plotted by their father would not have been able to survive the intense heat and thick smoke, the fire service said.
Fire investigators said temperatures in the upstairs bedrooms of 18 Victory Road, Allenton, Derby, would have reached more than 500C (932F) and anyone in those rooms did not stand a chance of survival.
Thick black smoke would have quickly filled each of the rooms from floor to ceiling, rendering Jade, ten, and her brothers Duwayne, 13, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, unconscious in minutes.
From the moment the fire was set in the hallway in the early hours of 11 May, the flames would have surged up the uPVC front door, melting the plastic, and quickly progressed up
the staircase with the help of varnished wood panelling.
All the upstairs doors were open, allowing the smoke to flood the three bedrooms in which the youngsters slept.
An open window at the top of the stairs created a “chimney
effect”, drawing the flames and smoke up the stairs. The downstairs living-room was severely smoke-logged as the flames surged through on to the ceiling, embers falling on to the carpeted floor and setting light to the curtains.
Firefighters made a desperate attempt to rescue the children in pitch-black conditions, carrying them out one by one.
Members of the public gallery wept during the trial at Nottingham Crown Court as one of the six firefighters who went into the inferno described the harrowing moment he found “casualties everywhere” upstairs.
The trial heard how neighbours Daniel and Callum Stevenson, along with Jamie and
Darren Butler, tried to get inside the house to save the children, but were beaten back by the dense smoke and intense flames.
A tearful Jamie Butler told the court he ignored police officers who told him to leave the scene: “I wouldn’t leave without trying to get those babies out.”
Mr Butler said he apologised to Mick Philpott when he saw him at the front of the house.
Prosecutor Richard Latham, QC, asked him: “What did you apologise for?”
Mr Butler replied: “For not being able to save his kids.”