Wednesday 17 January 2018

‘Dad started fire which killed his six children to frame his ex’, court told

Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead
Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead

Lucy Bogustawski and Emma Sword

A FATHER accused of killing his six children in a house fire started the blaze as part of a "plan" to frame his ex-girlfriend after becoming locked in a custody battle with her, a court has heard.

Mick Philpott, along with his wife Mairead, allegedly started the fire at their semi-detached home after making reports to the police that his former partner, Lisa Willis, had been threatening him and his family.

There were emotional scenes during their manslaughter trial at Nottingham Crown Court, England today as the 999 call made by the couple as the fire took hold was played to the jury.

Philpott stood and tried to leave the dock saying "I can't listen to it" before being made to sit down by security officers.

He spent the remaining minutes sobbing, with his head bowed and hands over his ears as the call played out.

The court was told the family shared an unconventional lifestyle - Philpott, 56, his 31-year-old wife and Ms Willis, 28, all lived in the same house.

A total of 11 children also lived there - six were those of Mick and Mairead Philpott, while four were his children with Ms Willis. Another child was Ms Willis's with another man.

Mick and Mairead Philpott's children - Jade, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13 - all perished after the fire at their home in Victory Road, Allenton, Derby, in the early hours of May 11 last year.

The couple, along with a third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, have all denied six separate counts of manslaughter in relation to the deaths.

At the start of their trial at Nottingham Crown Court today, prosecutor Richard Latham QC told the jury the fire was started in the early hours of the morning on the day Ms Willis and Philpott were due in court to discuss the residency of the children.

She had left Philpott and the Victory Road property in February last year, taking her children with her, and had become embroiled in a bitter battle with Philpott.

He planned to frame her and eventually win his children back, and had made numerous reports to the police that she had threatened him, his wife and the children, the jury heard.

Mr Latham told the jury of six men and six women: "By May 1st Mick Philpott was reporting to the police that Lisa Willis had made telephone threats to kill him.

"The police visited him, he was at times highly emotional and made it clear that he wanted Lisa arrested.

"If she had been this would have assisted him in the court proceedings, wouldn't it?"

About a fortnight before the fire Philpott told friends he had an idea for a way of getting Lisa and the children back, Mr Latham said.

"He told people he had a plan up his sleeve and that she wasn't going to get away with it - watch this space."

The court heard that on April 6, Philpott received a call from his wife while taking friends to a darts game in his minibus.

Philpott told his friends: "Sorry guys, someone is threatening to torch the house with the kids in it," Mr Latham told the court.

"This was all nonsense. This was all a way of setting what had become a plan," Mr Latham added.

"It became apparent to him that Lisa was going to do what she wanted and not what he required or demanded. He began to set her up."

Philpott told friends his plan would "slam her where it hurts", the jury heard.

"We say that this was a plan that went horribly wrong and resulted in total tragedy," Mr Latham said.

He told the court that Ms Willis denies threatening to torch the house.

The court heard Philpott began to hatch the plan after Ms Willis, who first met him when she was aged around 17, decided she was not happy with the domestic set-up and left the family home on February 11.

"We say that this event was the catalyst for everything that was to follow," Mr Latham said.

He said Philpott was deeply troubled by her leaving, to the point that he had become depressed and even tried to take his own life.

He steadily became "obsessed with getting Lisa and the kids back" and part of his distress was because of the simple fact that Ms Willis had left him.

"He is very controlling and very manipulative, he will do anything to get his own way. He simply will not tolerate dissent," jurors heard.

When Ms Willis returned to the house with a friend on February 14 to collect clothes for her and the children, she was challenged by Philpott.

"There was an incident on the doorstep, Philpott manifesting huge aggression and the police were called," Mr Latham said.

"What she had done challenged the very core of his attitude to his family and his women.

"She had stood up to him, he was no longer in control and that was absolutely unacceptable to him."

During the eight-minute 999 call, made from Philpott's mobile phone at 3.46am on May 11, the distress and panic caused by the chaotic scene could be heard when both Philpott and his wife talked to the operator.

He could be heard crying and saying: "I can't get in."

His wife put her hand up to her eyes and wiped away tears as the recording was played.

Mr Latham said that while she was talking to 999 operators the fire was out of control and police also arrived on the scene.

During the prosecution opening, the court heard details of the Philpotts' life together with Ms Willis, who moved into the house not long after meeting Philpott.

While Ms Willis and her children were living at the three-bedroom council house in Victory Road - which had a games room including full-length snooker table - most of the children normally slept upstairs while Mairead Philpott slept in either the living room or the conservatory.

Her husband slept in a caravan outside with Ms Willis.

The adults had a sexual relationship but Philpott often said he was unhappy with his wife, jurors heard.

He said he wanted to divorce her and marry Ms Willis while still wishing for all three of them to live in the house together.

"Mairead was Lisa's lapdog, Lisa was who he wanted," Mr Latham told the court.

Ms Willis became unhappy with the relationship, Mr Latham said, but did not express her feelings to Philpott because she was worried about his reaction.

He had in the past attacked her with a piece of wood, claiming that the father of her first child was her sister's partner.

"Michael Philpott was convinced she was having an affair with everyone," Mr Latham said. "She was not allowed to speak to another man."

"Unbeknown to Michael Philpott, Lisa Willis got to the point where she found the whole domestic set-up unacceptable.

"She knew that to simply announce to Michael Philpott that she found the relationship set-up unacceptable would provoke a singularly unpleasant reaction.

"He was the one who made the decisions, the women did not."

On Saturday February 11, Ms Willis told him she was taking her children swimming and did not return home, the jury heard.

She stayed with her sister for a while before moving to a women's refuge and then eventually into her own council accommodation.

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