Salford fire accused Zak Bolland 'thought house was empty'

Zak Bolland Image copyright Helen Tipper
Image caption A court sketch of Zak Bolland during the trial

A man accused of murdering four children by fire bombing their home has told a jury he thought the house was empty.

Zak Bolland, 23, has admitted reckless arson but told Manchester Crown Court he believed the family had been taken into police protection.

The four siblings, aged between three and 15, were killed in the blaze in Walkden, Salford, on 11 December.

Mr Bolland and two others are on trial for their murder.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother, Brandon, aged eight, and sisters, Lacie, seven, and Lia, three, all died in the fire.

Their mother Michelle Pearson, 35, survived but was left badly injured.

Image copyright Police handout
Image caption Lia, Demi, Brandon and Lacie died in the fire and their mother Michelle Pearson was left in a coma

Mr Bolland and David Worrall, 25, are alleged to have attacked the house with petrol bombs at about 05:00 GMT.

The court has heard the arson attack was the result of a "petty" feud with Mrs Pearson's 16-year-old son Kyle over £500 of damage to a car.

Mr Bolland gave evidence from the witness box on Friday, while 10 paces away about ten members of Michelle Pearson's family sat watching him in the public gallery.

He said in the early hours of 11 December he got "wound up" so went round to Mrs Pearson's house to find Kyle.

The defendant said he blamed the Pearsons for an earlier arson attack on his mother's home, and Mr Worrall had suggested: "Why don't we go and do it back?"

He told the jury he "thought it was the right idea" and agreed.

They went to the back of the house and smashed the kitchen window with an axe, the jury heard.

He said Mr Worrall lit toilet paper stuffed in the neck of a Budweiser bottle filled with petrol and threw it in.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Demi, Brandon and Lacie all died in the blaze while Lia died in hospital two days later

Mr Bolland then tossed a second lit vodka bottle inside which exploded.

"I heard like a big whoosh. I didn't look back," he said.

"I did not think it would have been occupied. I assumed police had taken them into protection. I was drunk, high on cocaine, just rushing."

The defendant said he did not intend to kill or harm anybody.

Hours later his mother called him to say the children had died and the police were looking for him.

He told the court he was "devastated" and added: "I did not believe it. I had my head in my hands."

Mr Worrall, Mr Bolland and Courtney Brierley, 20, all deny four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.

Mr Bolland has admitted reckless arson, a charge denied by the other two.

The trial continues on Monday.

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