The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

British couple to be sentenced for starting fire that killed 6 of their children

  • Print

LONDON - Mick Philpott presented himself as an amiable rascal with an unorthodox lifestyle and a rambunctious brood of children — 17 in all, with five women.

Yet the Englishman's ramshackle existence took a horrifying turn when he and his wife set a fire that killed six of their children. Prosecutors said it was an attempt to influence a custody battle that "went disastrously and tragically wrong."

The May 2012 deaths and the twisting saga that ensued have shocked Britain and sparked debate on everything from sexism to Britain's welfare system.

A judge said she would sentence Mick and Mairead Philpott on Thursday for their manslaughter convictions in the deaths of Jayden, Jesse, Jack, John, Jade and Duwayne, aged 5 to 13.

Prosecutors said the couple hatched a plan to start a gasoline-fueled fire and then rescue the children, pinning blame on Philpott's mistress so he could gain advantage in their child custody battle.

The plan went wrong within minutes, because the fire was far bigger than expected and the father was unable to smash a window to get in, prosecutors said.

The couple and a friend who helped them, Paul Mosley, were all convicted of manslaughter this week at England's Nottingham Crown Court.

Before the fire, Philpott, now 56, was a local celebrity — nicknamed "Shameless Mick" after a television program about a disreputable working-class clan — who had appeared on a daytime talk show defending his lifestyle. In 2007, a Conservative lawmaker stayed at his home for a week as she filmed a critical documentary about Britain's welfare system.

The jury — and the nation — got a close-up look during the trial at Philpott's messy life with his 32-year-old wife, his girlfriend and as many as 11 children in a three-bedroom social housing property in Derby, central England. They heard of his threesomes and public sex, of Philpott's controlling behaviour and of his bizarre claim that he had not washed for 12 weeks before the fire.

Shortly before the fire, girlfriend Lisa Willis moved out, taking her five children with her. Philpott's five children with Mairead and his wife's 13-year-old son from a previous relationship remained in the home and died in the blaze.

After the fire, the Philpotts made an emotional appeal on television, with Mick describing how he had battled the flames to try to save his children.

But police soon grew suspicious of the couple's erratic behaviour and bugged the hotel room where they were staying. The jury was played recordings of Philpott asking his wife: "Are you sticking to the story?"

The couple was arrested two weeks after the fire and charged with murder, later downgraded to manslaughter.

"It was started as a result of a plan between the three of them to turn family court proceedings in Mr. Philpott's favour," said Crown Prosecution Service adviser Samantha Shallow. "It was a plan that went disastrously and tragically wrong."

Steve Cotterill, the assistant chief constable of Derbyshire Constabulary, said it had been "one of, if not the most upsetting cases 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 said.

The jury was not told that Philpott had a previous conviction for attempted murder for stabbing a former girlfriend and her mother when he was 21 or that he was on bail for road rage at the time of the fire.

The conviction of the couple was front-page news in Britain, with publications seeing all manner of social ills reflected in Philpott's mustachioed face.

To the liberal Guardian newspaper, he was "a control freak whose domestic violence went unchecked." For the conservative Daily Mail, he was "a vile product of welfare U.K." To the Daily Mirror tabloid he was simply "pure evil."

But their defence lawyers painted a different picture.

Anthony Orchard told the judge Wednesday that "despite Mr.Philpott's faults, he was a very good father and loved those children."

"Mairead Philpott was an extremely good mother to all 11 children," her lawyer, Shaun Smith, said. "No one, we respectfully submit, can dispute the grief that she feels."

Judge Kathryn Thirlwall said she wanted to "reflect further" and adjourned sentencing to Thursday.

___

Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A black swallowtail butterfly land on Lantana flowers Sunday morning at the Assiniboine Park English Gardens- standup photo – August 14, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Will higher pork prices change your grocery-shopping habits?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google