Lawyer says man behind Derby fire a 'very good father'

Thursday 04 April 2013 07.22
Jade Philpott and her brothers John, Jack, Jesse, Jayden and Duwayne all died in the fire
Jade Philpott and her brothers John, Jack, Jesse, Jayden and Duwayne all died in the fire

A man who killed his six children in a house fire was a "very good father" who never meant to harm them, his lawyer said.

Mick Philpott, 56, who was yesterday found guilty by a jury of the manslaughter of the six, has never had a chance to grieve over the deaths of his children, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

In mitigation ahead of Mrs Justice Kate Thirlwall passing sentence, Anthony Orchard QC said: "Despite Mr Philpott's faults he was a very good father and loved those children. All the witnesses, even Lisa Willis, agree on this.

"There's no evidence at any stage that he deliberately harmed any of them."

Philpott, his 32-year-old wife Mairead and their friend Paul Mosley, 46, were convicted of six separate counts of manslaughter following the deaths of the children in the family home in Victory Road, Derby, in the early hours of 11 May last year.

Mr Orchard went on: "He is, as is Mairead, a parent who lost six children. He's never been able to grieve or even to bury them."

"His behaviour when he was with the doctors was consistent with extreme grief when he was at the hospital."

Mr Orchard said Philpott would have to live with the jury's verdicts, and the fact that they said he killed his children.

"He will have to live with the hatred and hostility of the press and the public for the rest of his life," he added.

Mr Orchard said Philpott's conviction for attempting to murder a previous girlfriend by repeatedly stabbing her in 1978 was a "long time ago" and there was no evidence of anything like that being repeated.

But the judge, Judge Mrs Justice Thirlwall, interrupted and told him: "There's been violence in every single relationship, has there not?"

Shaun Smith QC, for Mairead Philpott, said the children led happy lives despite the unusual circumstances in which they were brought up, living for a time with their mother, father and their father's girlfriend.

Mr Smith said there was no evidence "any of these children were in any sort of danger or peril prior to that night [of the fire] whatsoever".

He said: "They were well looked-after. They were well nourished. They were happy children."

Mr Smith said: "There were absolutely no problems as far as these children were concerned [with the living arrangements].

"No suggestion they were out on the street causing trouble."

Mr Orchard said the plan to set the fire had gone "disastrously wrong" because it spread too quickly.

The judge interjected and said the experience for the children, if they had been saved, would have been terrifying nonetheless.

"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," she said.

Sentencing has been adjourned until 10.30am tomorrow.