Walkden fire: Men 'murdered mum and children in arson attack'

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Composite imageImage source, Family handouts
Image caption,
Lia, Demi, Brandon, Lacie and their mother Michelle Pearson were sleeping when the fire broke out

Two men murdered a woman who died 20 months after being injured in a petrol bomb attack on her house that killed her four children, a court has heard.

Michelle Pearson, 37, "clung on to life" but died almost two years after the fire at her home in Walkden, Greater Manchester, in December 2017.

Zak Bolland, 26, and David Worrall, 28, deny murdering Mrs Pearson.

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court heard the pair have previously been convicted of murdering her four children.

Demi Pearson, 15, eight-year-old Brandon and Lacie, seven, died in the blaze while Mrs Pearson was rescued along with her three-year-old daughter Lia, who died in hospital two days later.

Her eldest son, Kyle, 16, managed to escape the blaze through a window.

Mrs Pearson suffered 68% burns to her body and died on 25 August 2019, the court heard.

Prosecutor Paul Reid QC said: "Just as they denied their guilt in 2018, these defendants now deny their guilt of the murder of Michelle Pearson.

"The prosecution say that if Michelle Pearson had died before that trial took place, the jury would undoubtedly have convicted Bolland and Worrall of the murder of Michelle Pearson."

Image source, GMP
Image caption,
Zak Bolland (left) and David Worrall are on trial at Manchester Crown Court

The court heard the fire on 11 December 2017 was the culmination of a number of attacks on the Pearson family home.

Bolland and Worrall launched the fatal attack, the culmination of a series of tit-for-tat attacks, while feuding with Kyle Pearson, jurors were told.

Mr Reid said in the weeks before the fire Bolland's car was damaged and he blamed Mr Pearson, demanding £500 and sending threatening text messages to Mrs Pearson's phone number.

The court heard about four hours before the blaze, Bolland was at the doorstep threatening Mrs Pearson that he was "going to do your house".

Mr Reid said Bolland and Worrall returned at 05:00 GMT, removed a fence panel at the back of the house, smashed a kitchen window and threw two petrol bombs inside, trapping the family upstairs.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The fire followed a series of tit-for-tat attacks, the court heard

Mr Reid said Bolland denied murder and says he is only guilty of manslaughter after he was wrongly convicted of the murders in 2018.

He claims it was his co-defendant's idea to petrol bomb the house, and he thought no-one was home at the time.

The court heard Worrall denies murder and claims he was also wrongly convicted in 2018.

His case is that he believed the house to be occupied but thought all that was going to happen was the family's wheelie bins were going to be set on fire.

Bolland's girlfriend at the time, Courtney Brierley, 23, who "encouraged or assisted them", was convicted of four counts of manslaughter at the first trial.

She has admitted the manslaughter of Mrs Pearson and is awaiting sentence.

The trial continues.

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