Derby Fire: Philpotts Face Jail Over Deaths

Tom Parmenter, Crime Correspondent

A couple convicted of killing six of their children in a fire at the family home are due to find out how long they will spend in jail.

Mick and Mairead Philpott were found guilty of six counts of manslaughter - one for each of their dead children - at Nottingham Crown Court on Tuesday.

Their friend Paul Mosley will also be sentenced after he too was found guilty of the same charges.

Trial judge Mrs Justice Thirlwall was expected to sentence the trio on Wednesday but wanted more time to reflect having heard mitigation on behalf of the three.

They were found guilty of killing Jade Philpott, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13, in the Derby fire in the early hours of May 11.

On Wednesday, Mick Philpott made obscene hand gestures from the dock as he was heckled by members of his wife Mairead's family following his defence team's plea for leniency.

The taunting came after lawyers argued he was a "very good father" who had been "unable to grieve".

His barrister, Mr Anthony Orchard QC, urged the judge to pass the minimum sentence on Philpott, saying the father of 17 children by five different women would "have to live with the hatred and hostility of the press and the public for the rest of his life".

He added that Philpott "faces hostility from other prisoners on a daily basis".

Philpott's criminal record was laid bare in court.

It heard the 56-year-old, who killed six children by setting fire to his home, stabbed a previous girlfriend 13 times, injuring her so badly she still has to take medication.

Mrs Justice Kate Thirlwall heard how Philpott attacked Kim Hill in 1978 leaving her severely injured with a broken arm and finger.

He had also been given a police caution for slapping his wife and dragging her from their home by her hair.

The defence teams of Philpott's wife Mairead and the couple's friend Paul Mosley also appealed for leniency as part of the mitigation process in the case.

Mairead Philpott wept in court as her barrister, Sean Smith QC, described her as a devoted mother who he said was "not a woman who has a heart of stone", but one whose "grief is overwhelming".

Philpott and Mairead, 32, started the blaze at their Derby home in the early hours of May 11, pouring petrol in the hallway of the property.

Together with Mosley, 46, they planned that Philpott should break in by the back door and rescue the children.

But the plot went wrong and fire ripped through the three-bedroom council house in Victoria Road, Derby, with temperatures reaching 500C.

The three had devised the plan to frame Lisa Willis, Philpott's former girlfriend.

Philpott was fighting a custody battle with Miss Willis, 29, who had lived with the couple and slept with Philpott on alternate nights while living at the house.

Both women were said to have lived happily with one another for a decade but Miss Willis left Philpott three months before the deadly fire taking her five children, four of whom were fathered by him.

In mitigation, Mr Orchard told the court that the fire had gone "disastrously wrong" because it spread too quickly.

However, the judge countered that even if the children had been saved by Philpott, as intended, the experience would still have been terrifying.

She said: "If the plan had been successful the effect on the children would have been this, would it not - they would have been awoken in their beds with their house on fire and their father coming in to rescue them."

The judge said that she was troubled by Philpott's attitude to women and pointed out that there had been violence in every one of his relationships.

She heard that Mairead had devoted her life to bringing up the children and that they were "happy children" despite their unusual living arrangements.

Her barrister, Mr Smith, said Mairead had spent 12-and-a-half of her 32 years with Philpott and realised it was "utter folly" to stay with him but that she "would do whatever he said, whatever he wanted".

Mr Smith said that she "will be forever known as a child killer" and even when released from prison she would never be able to have children or be involved with children.

After the mitigation speeches for each defendant had finished, there were obscene gestures made by relatives of Mairead Philpott towards Mick Philpott in the dock.

He responded by making hand gestures himself before being led away by a team of security guards.

Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court returned guilty verdicts on manslaughter charges for the pair and co-defendant Mosley, 46, on Tuesday after an eight-week trial.

Upon their conviction, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill, of Derbyshire Police, revealed how he suspected Philpott as he watched his reactions during a press conference.

He said that officers had been surprised when Philpott wanted to speak to the media five days after fire.

Mr Cotterill said his misgivings were betrayed in a single photograph, taken as he sat alongside Mick, and his wife Mairead.

He said: "In one particular photograph, what I saw there was a guy who was sat there pretending to cry and I've described it as a bit of a sham of a performance and I didn't believe that he was genuinely overcome by grief.

"I thought he was playing to the cameras."

Philpott became known as Shameless Mick for a lifestyle, which saw him take charge of some £2,000 a month in benefits, and claim he needed a bigger council home in which to house his vast family.

His propensity for cashing in on the welfare state propelled him on to television screens in a documentary with Ann Widdecombe and on the Jeremy Kyle Show.

But the role he played in the devastating fire on May 11 led to allegations he was “acting”.

Brothers Jamie and Darren Butler, who live in the same road, told Sky News how the Philpotts did nothing to help rescue their children and stood like "a couple of statues".

Jamie said: "You watch Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale all the time, and you can see people are acting, because they get paid to act. That's exactly what he was doing, he wasn't being paid for it, but he was acting. There was no emotion, he was motionless, there was nothing."

Even as Philpott went to see the bodies of the dead children at Derby Royal Hospital he attempted to keep up the act.

Mortuary manager Marie Smith described how Philpott had pretended to faint when he saw his children's bodies for the first time .

She said he also asked for alcohol and engaged in horseplay with a police liaison officer days after the tragedy while bemused staff looked on.

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