Philpott child fire deaths 'a plan that went horribly wrong'

Jon Brain reports on the trial of a couple accused of starting a fire that killed their six children

A couple started a house fire which killed their six children in "a plan that went horribly wrong", a court has been told.

Michael and Mairead Philpott, along with third defendant Paul Mosley, deny six counts of manslaughter.

The prosecution allege they started the fire to frame Mr Philpott's former mistress amid a custody battle.

She and her five children had moved out of the Derby council house three months before the fire on 11 May.

On the morning of the fire, Mr Philpott and his former mistress, Lisa Willis, had been due in court to discuss residency of the children.

'Acting together'

Richard Latham QC, outlining the prosecution case at Nottingham Crown Court, said: "We say that this was a plan that went horribly wrong and resulted in total tragedy.

Start Quote

[Lisa Willis] had stood up to [Michael Philpott], he was no longer in control and that was absolutely unacceptable to him”

End Quote Richard Latham QC Nottingham Crown Court

"What is alleged is that these children died as a result of the unlawful acts of these defendants who, we say, were acting together in a joint enterprise, setting a house fire."

Police secretly recorded conversations between the parents as they stayed in a hotel following the fire, and Mr Philpott was heard saying to his wife: "Make sure you stick to the story."

Earlier, the jury was told about the family's unconventional lifestyle - Mr Philpott, 56, his 31-year-old wife and his mistress Lisa 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 children with Ms Willis. Another child was Ms Willis's with another man.

Ms Willis had been just 17 or 18 when she met Mr Philpott. The prosecution said from the outset he "sought to exert total control" over her, ensuring her wages from a cleaning job and her benefits were paid into his bank account.

The prosecution said Mr Philpott preferred his relationship with Ms Willis but she had become unhappy. On 11 February she moved out after telling Mr Philpott she was taking her children swimming.

The defendants at Nottingham Crown Court The defendants each deny six counts of manslaughter

She returned three days later to collect some clothes and was challenged by Mr Philpott, jurors heard.

Mr Latham said: "There was an incident on the doorstep, Philpott manifesting huge aggression and the police were called.

"What she had done challenged the very core of his attitude to his family and his women.

'Plan up sleeve'

"She had stood up to him, he was no longer in control and that was absolutely unacceptable to him."

On 1 May Mr Philpott reported to the police that Ms Willis had made threats to kill him, the court heard.

"The police visited him, he was at times highly emotional and made it clear that he wanted Lisa arrested," Mr Latham said.

"If she had been this would have assisted him in the court proceedings, wouldn't it?"

Two weeks before the fire, Mr Philpott told friends he had an idea for a way of getting Ms Willis and the children back, the jury heard.

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."

The court also heard that Mr Philpott received a call from his wife while taking friends to a darts game in his minibus.

Mr Philpott told his friends, "Sorry guys someone is threatening to torch the house with the kids in it", Mr Latham told the court.

The fire was started using petrol in the hallway of the house as the children slept, the court heard.

In a 999 call Mrs Philpott was heard saying: "My house is on fire and my kids are inside."

Mr Philpott later took the phone and, though difficult to understand through his sobs, said: "I can't get in."

'Rescue plan'

As the call was played in court Mr Philpott listened with his hands clamped over his ears.

Neighbours tried to rescue the children from the burning house but were beaten back by the smoke and flames.

Mr Mosley later suggested to a friend that the defendants had rehearsed a rescue plan six weeks before, jurors heard.

Mr Mosley said he was to kick the back door in while the Philpotts ran out of the front of the house, and he was then to go upstairs to save the children, Mr Latham told the court.

The Philpotts wanted a bigger house, Mr Mosley allegedly told his friend, and Mrs Philpott apparently wrote a suicide note in which she took the blame for the fire, saying she would take the children with her next time.

Jade Philpott, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight; Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, died at their home. Their brother Duwayne, 13, died in hospital.

Mr Philpott, 56, and Mrs Philpott, 31, both formerly of Victory Road, and Mr Mosley, 46, of Cecil Street, Derby, all deny six counts of manslaughter.

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