3 Apr 2013

Philpotts to be sentenced over fire deaths

Mick and Mairead Philpott, found guilty of manslaughter after six of their children died in a house fire in Derby, are to be sentenced today.

Mick and Mairead Philpott

The Philpotts were convicted by jurors at Nottingham crown court of the unlawful killing of the six siblings in the blaze at the family home in Victory Road, Derby, on 11 May last year.

The court was told Mick Philpott hoped the fire would frame his ex-mistress so he could win custody of their children.

Samantha Shallow, from the Crown Prosecution Service, described the incident as a plan that went “disastrously and tragically wrong”.

A third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, was also found guilty of manslaughter by the jury following an eight-week trial. All three will be sentenced on Wednesday.

As the jury delivered its verdicts in respect of Philpott, he stood in the dock staring straight ahead with his hands clasped in front of him.

As the court heard guilty verdicts in respect of his wife, he shook his head and she looked down at the floor and fought back tears while clutching a tissue in both her hands.

Mosley showed no emotion as he heard the guilty verdicts.

Before leaving the dock, as the judge rose for a short break after emotional outbursts in the packed public gallery, Philpott crossed himself and was heard to say: “It’s not over yet.”

An ‘evil’ act

One leading police officer described it as the most tragic case he ever worked on. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill, of Derbyshire police, said igniting the fire was an “evil” act and that Mick Philpott’s subsequent reaction was a “sham”.

Mr Cotterill, who met the couple at a press conference five days after the fire, described Mr Philpott’s reaction as the most astonishing he had ever seen.

“After 30 years of doing what I do I have never seen anybody having suffered that magnitude of loss deal with it in the manner in which he dealt with it,” he said.

“I would have expected him to be completely and utterly destroyed, and if push came to shove not able to present himself at the press conference.”

After 30 years of doing what I do I have never seen anybody having suffered that magnitude of loss deal with it in the manner in which he dealt with it. Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill

The fire happened at around 3.45am on 11 May, just hours before Philpott, who was father to a total of 17 children by five different women, and Miss Willis were due to appear at a pre-scheduled court hearing to discuss residency of their children.

Prosecutor Richard Latham QC said the plan had “gone completely wrong” within two minutes because the fire was far bigger than the defendants expected.

Philpott and his wife rang 999 to ask for emergency services assistance on the night of the blaze. The majority of the emotive call was played to the court and left Philpott doubled over and sobbing in the witness box as he listened.

‘Justice served’

In a statement read out on Nottingham crown court shortly after the verdict, Mick Philpott’s sister Dawn Bestwick, said: “My family and I have attended court each and every day and listened objectively to all the evidence in this trial to understand what happened to our six beautiful children on May 11 2012.

“Our presence in court was to find out the truth. Following today’s verdict, we the family of Michael Philpott, believe justice has been served.”