true crime

Mick Philpott set fire to a house with his 6 kids inside, so he could rescue them. They died.

Warning: This post contains mentions of child abuse and murder and may be triggering for some readers.

After six of their children died in a house fire in Derby, in May 2012, grieving parents Mick Philpott and his wife Mairead held a press conference. Wiping at his eyes with a tissue, Philpott thanked the emergency services, and announced that he was donating 13-year-old Duwayne’s organs “because if you can save another child, it makes us happy, takes a bit of the pain away”.

He ended with a plea: “Please, I beg you. Leave us alone and let us grieve in peace and quiet. That’s all I ask.”

But the police weren’t going to leave the Philpotts alone. Two weeks later, the couple was arrested and charged with the murder of their children.

Mick Philpott fire
The aftermath of Philpott's house. Image: Getty.

Mick Philpott was familiar to people in the UK well before the fatal fire. In 2006, he appeared in The Telegraph under the headline: “Jobless and shameless”.

Back then, he was an unemployed father of 15 who was demanding a larger council house after getting both his wife, Mairead, and mistress, Lisa Willis, pregnant at the same time. He complained that it was “very cramped” with him, the two women and nine of his children in the three-bedroom council house, with another two children on the way.

“We obviously need a new place, but the council won't give us one,” he told The Telegraph. “They always come up with the same excuses. They're just not good enough.”

He said some people called him a scrounger, but he wasn’t.

“I'm just a good father.”

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What the article didn’t reveal was that this self-described “good father” had a violent criminal past. In 1978, when he was in the army, he had stabbed 17-year-old Kim Hill 27 times. The teenager had been engaged to Philpott, but had sent him a letter, ending their three-year relationship. Enraged, Philpott had crept into her home at night, telling her, “If I can’t have you, no one else will,” before attacking her.

When Hill’s mum Shirley tried to save her, Philpott stabbed her too. Hill spent six weeks in intensive care. Philpott was sentenced to seven years in prison for attempted murder.

The publicity Philpott got from the “Jobless and shameless” story led to an appearance on The Jeremy Kyle Show in 2007. The episode got huge ratings.

Mick Philpott fire
Jeremy Kyle was slammed for his decision to include Philpott, however the episode still received considerable ratings. Image: The Jeremy Kyle Show

Philpott lived with his wife and mistress for 10 years. Willis moved in when she was a 17-year-old single mum.

She says the two women “shared” Philpott.

“One night it would be me, one night it would be Mairead,” she explained. “We never had all three of us together.”

Willis says Philpott was violent towards her, once attacking her with a plank of wood, and controlled every aspect of her life, having her cleaner’s wages and her benefits paid into his bank account.

In early 2012, Willis finally decided to leave Philpott. Soon afterwards, Philpott came up with a plan to start a house fire and blame Willis for it, hoping to win custody of her kids.

On the night of May 10, Philpott, his wife and a friend, Paul Mosley, had a threesome on a snooker table. In the early hours of the next morning, petrol was poured into the Philpotts’ house through a letterbox. Before long, a fire broke out. The six children were asleep upstairs. The plan was for Philpott to act like a hero and rescue them, but the fire spread far more quickly than the trio had expected.

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Jade, John, Jack, Jesse and Jayden died in the fire. Duwayne died three days later in hospital.

Mick Philpott fire
The six children were asleep upstairs when the fire broke out. Image: Getty. Image: Getty.

Police had their suspicions about the Philpotts early on, with Mick Philpott, in particular, behaving oddly for someone who had just lost six children. After visiting their bodies at the hospital, he bumped into young police officer Joanne Halford, flirted with her and invited her back to his hotel.

At the press conference, Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill felt that Mick Philpott came across like an actor playing a part.

"It was a sham, in my view," he told the BBC.

Police bugged the couple’s hotel room, and Philpott was heard to tell his wife, "You make sure you stick to your story,” and, “They’re not gonna find any evidence, are they? You know what I mean?"

He was also heard saying that he was reliving the fire over and over in his head. “Why couldn't I get my kids out? Why did the fire spread so f***ing quick?”

The couple were arrested on May 29 and charged with murder. The charges were later downgraded to manslaughter. Mosley was arrested later, after petrol was found on his clothing, as well as the Philpotts’.

The following year, all three were found guilty of starting the fire that killed the six children. Mick Philpott received a life sentence, to serve a minimum of 15 years. His wife and Mosley received 17-year sentences, and were told they would have to serve half of them.

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Both Mick and Mairead Philpott’s families condemned them. Philpott’s sister Dawn Bestwick yelled, “Die, Mick, die!” at her brother as he was led away. In a statement, she said her family felt justice had been served.

“We can now attempt to move on and our six angels can rest in peace,” she added.

Mick Philpott fire
Mick Philpott’s sister Dawn Bestwick after he was sentenced for the murder of his six children. Image: Getty.

This is how the children’s teachers and friends remembered them after their deaths:

Duwayne, 13, was very protective of his younger siblings and had a talent for music.

Jade, 10, was part of her school’s chaplaincy team and everyone’s friend.

John, nine, was a daredevil who dreamed of joining the army.

Jack, eight, was the shyest of the children and spent a lot of time on computers.

Jesse, six, was loud and mischievous, but always looked out for his little brother Jayden.

Jayden, five, was born premature but had lots of energy and loved eating chips.

If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse) hereIf you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from the Child Abuse Protection Hotline by calling 1800 688 009, or visiting their website. You can also call the 24-
hour Child Abuse Report Line (131 478).

Tags: features , mick-philpott , news-3 , true-crime
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