LONDON – A British couple were found guilty Tuesday of killing six of their children in a blaze started deliberately at their family home.
Mick Philpott 56, and his 32-year-old wife, Mairead, were convicted at Nottingham Crown Court in central England of manslaughter in the house fire that killed six of their children in nearby Derby on May 11, 2012.
Prosecutors said the couple had set their home ablaze in a bid to frame Philpott’s 29-year-old former live-in girlfriend, who left the house three months earlier, and claim custody of her five children — four of which he fathered.
Philpott was supposed to have rescued the children through a bedroom window, but the gasoline-fueled fire was far greater than he expected and the window would not open.
A father of 17 children by five different women, Philpott was already a nationally known figure dubbed “Shameless Mick” by the press for his lifestyle, which has been funded by hefty state welfare handouts.
A third defendant, Paul Mosley — who joined Philpott for sexual encounters with Mairead — was also found guilty of manslaughter by the jury following an eight-week trial.
All six children, ranging in age from 5 to 13, died of smoke inhalation. They were all Mairead’s children, and Philpott had fathered all but the eldest, Duwayne.
Samantha Shallow, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said it was a “harrowing” case.
“Today’s verdict shows that the children died as a result of the actions of Michael and Mairead Philpott and Paul Mosley when they set the fire,” she said. “It was started as a result of a plan between the three of them to turn family court proceedings in Mr. Philpott’s favor. It was a plan that went disastrously and tragically wrong.”
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill, of the Derbyshire Police, told reporters outside court: “This has to be one of, if not the most, upsetting case any of us has ever investigated.”
Philpott hit TV screens in 2007, when he appeared in a documentary about welfare that was made by a former prisons minister, Ann Widdecombe. He demanded that authorities give him a larger house to share with his wife, girlfriend and eight of their children, leading to the “Shameless Mick” nickname and headlines proclaiming him “Britain’s biggest scrounger.”
Prosecutors said part of the motive could have been Philpott’s desire for a bigger house from the local authority, or simply because he wanted his children and girlfriend back in the family home.
The court was told how his wife and girlfriend would take turns sleeping with him in either a caravan or the sunroom. Mick Philpott also told the court he had not bathed for 12 weeks before the fire .The court heard that hours before the blaze, Mairead had sex with Mosley over a pool table while Philpott watched, and the trio had further sexual encounters not long after the children’s deaths.
Outside court, Mairead Philpott’s family said justice had been done. The children “were taken away in the cruellest way imaginable by the very people who were supposed to love and protect them,” they said. “We, Mairead’s family, cannot describe the pain we feel.”