Two men who petrol bombed house killing four children after family feud guilty of murder

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Zak Bolland, Courtney Brierley and David Worrall pictured in a court sketch from the trial in December (PA)

Two men have been given life sentences for murdering four children with petrol bombs while they slept in their beds.

Zak Bolland, 23, who launched the fatal attack after being involved in a petty feud with the victims’ 17-year-old brother Kyle Pearson, was convicted of four counts of murder at Manchester Crown Court.

David Worrall, 25, who was accused of removing a fence panel from the garden of Michelle Pearson’s home and smashing a kitchen window before two lit petrol bombs were tossed inside, at around 5am on December 11 last year, was also found guilty of four counts of murder.

Bolland was given a minimum of 40 years and Worrall was given a minimum of 37 years.

Bolland’s girlfriend Courtney Brierley, 20, was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter after flames engulfed the three-bedroom mid-terrace house in Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Members of the Pearson family sitting in the public gallery hissed ‘Yes’ as the guilty verdicts were delivered, following around 16 hours of deliberation by the jury.

In the dock, Worrall blinked hard and put his head down, Worrall sat looking straight ahead crying silently, while Brierley also wiped away tears.

Lacie and Lia Pearson, who died following a blaze at their home in Greater Manchester (PA)

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, eight, and seven-year-old sister Lacie, who were sleeping in a front bedroom, all died in the blaze.

Their 36-year-old mother screamed “Not the kids! Not my kids!” before being overcome by the smoke, heat and flames.

She was rescued, severely injured, along with her youngest daughter Lia, aged three, who died in hospital two days later.

Kyle Pearson, who had been feuding with Bolland, managed to escape along with a friend, Bobby Harris, who was also staying at the house.

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The trio will be sentenced later on Thursday.

Fuelled by drink and drugs, Bolland and David Worrall filled two glass bottles with £1.50 of petrol bought from a local garage, stuffing the tops with tissue paper as they prepared the attack at 5am on December 11.

After the kitchen window of Michelle Pearson’s home was put through, two lit petrol bombs were thrown inside. Bolland hurled his bottle which ‘exploded’ near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs.

Within seconds flames engulfed the three-bedroom mid-terrace home on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Emergency services at the scene of a house fire on Jackson Street in Worsley, Greater Manchester (PA)

Three fire engines scrambled to the scene, the first arriving at 5.04am, with firefighters in breathing apparatus finding Brandon face down on his bedroom floor, as if trying to crawl out, and Lacie directly behind him, suggesting she was following her brother to try to escape.

Demi was found on a bunk bed, hands stretched out to the open window, and Lia was found in the bath.

As firemen battled the heat, smoke and flames to bring them out, a team of 15 paramedics worked on the mother and her children laid out on the snow-covered street.

Bolland and Kyle had been friends until the accused’s Peugeot car was set on fire and his house windows smashed, around November 25 last year, about two weeks before the fatal attack, and he blamed the teenager.

Forensic officers at the scene of the house fire in Manchester in December (PA)

The defendant demanded £500, sending harassing text messages, one demanding: ‘Fire letter box I want my my £500.’

Bolland threatened to fire bomb Mrs Pearson’s home, leading her to call police on November 26, and the fire service fitted a letter box cover.

But due to an ‘apparent misunderstanding’ police took no action against Bolland for smashing windows at Mrs Pearson’s home – and days later he was back gloating that he had escaped police action and taunting her with shouts of ‘Grass!’

Mrs Pearson again called police and asked for a restraining order, but two days before her children were murdered her bin was set on fire and the word ‘Grass’ spray painted on her house.

Fuelled by drink and drugs on the night of the attack, Bolland and Worrall armed themselves with an axe and a machete then got a frightened friend, Abigail Toone, to drive them to a Tesco garage for the petrol to be used.

Bolland and Brierley were arrested at around 6pm on the day of the fire, after contacting police, walking hand-in-hand to the officers who arrived to arrest them.

Demi Pearson also died in the blaze at the home (PA)

Worrall was arrested, ‘shaking profusely’, the day after as he stepped out of the shower at his mother’s house on Coronation Street, Salford.

Bolland admitted throwing the second petrol bomb but said he intended only to damage the house which he thought was not occupied.

He told the jury: ‘I heard like a big whoosh. I didn’t look back.’

He blamed Mrs Pearson’s sons for an earlier attempt to torch his car, smash his windows and set fire to his mother’s home.

Worrall said he thought they were only going to set fire to wheelie bins and denied throwing a petrol bomb.

Brierley said she did not know the two men had petrol bombs and claims Bolland had a ‘controlling influence’ over her during their ‘toxic’ relationship.

Mrs Pearson is still ‘very, very poorly’ and there is a ‘serious risk’ she may not survive if she catches an infection to her ‘dreadful’ burns.