Blaze father Philpott 'tried to frame ex girlfriend', court told
A father was the “prime mover and dominant player” in scheme to start a blaze which killed his six children as part of a plan to frame his ex-girlfriend after becoming locked in a custody battle with her, a court heard today.
Mick Philpott is accused of hatching the scheme to set up his former mistress and diminish her chances of winning an upcoming residency court hearing involving their children.
Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court, where he and his wife Mairead are on trial for the manslaughter of the youngsters, heard that Philpott was livid when Lisa Willis left him three months before the blaze.
He could simply not accept that she had gone and embarked upon a plan to set her up and point the finger of blame at her for setting fire to the family home in Victory Road in Allenton, Derby, England it is claimed.
Richard Latham QC told the jury: “Michael Philpott, it won’t surprise you to know, was the prime mover and dominant player in this unlawful and highly dangerous enterprise that, in the end, went so horribly wrong.”
Part of his motivation may also have been to get a bigger home for the family, which in turn may have persuaded Ms Willis to come back, the court heard.
“He wanted better accommodation from Derby Homes, the fire was a way of achieving that end,” Mr Latham added. “This was a three bedroom house, he wanted all 11 children to continue living with him.”
Six children died
Philpott denies six counts of manslaughter in relation to the deaths. His 31-year-old wife and a third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, also deny the same six charges.
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 which engulfed their home as they slept in their beds upstairs in the early hours of May 11 last year.
A total of 11 children also lived there until February – 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.
The 999 call made by the Philpotts at the time of the fire, at 3.46am, was played to the court and provoked an emotional reaction from Philpott.
He 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 was played out.
The court heard that after Ms Willis ended her 10-year relationship with Philpott, he began making reports to the police that she had threatened him and the family.
The pair had been due in court the morning of the fire to discuss residency of their children.
Told others he had a 'plan up his sleeve', court told
Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Latham told the jury of six men and six women: “By May 1, 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.”
On April 6, Philpott was giving a lift to some friends when he received a call from his wife and told them: “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.
Mr Latham told the court that Ms Willis denies threatening to torch the house.
Wife slept in house with children, Philpott slept in caravan outside with girlfriend
The court heard details of the family's life together.
The children slept in the upstairs bedrooms while Mairead Philpott slept in either the living room or the conservatory.
Her husband slept in a caravan outside with Ms Willis.
Ms Willis became increasingly unhappy with the domestic set-up, in which Philpott was domineering and controlling, and had decided to leave a short while before the fire but did not tell Philpott for fear of his reaction.
“She knew that to simply announce to Michael Philpott that she found the relationship set-up unacceptable would provoke a singularly unpleasant reaction,” Mr Latham said. “He was the one who made the decisions, the women did not.”
When she returned to the house on February 14 to collect belongings there was an incident on the doorstep with Philpott, who was aggressive, and the police were called.
“What she had done challenged the very core of his attitude to his family and his women,” jurors were told. She had stood up to him, he was no longer in control and that was absolutely unacceptable to him.”
The adults had a sexual relationship but Philpott often said he was unhappy with his wife and wanted to divorce her and marry Ms Willis, the court heard.
“Mairead was Lisa’s lapdog, Lisa was who he wanted,” Mr Latham said.
'It wasn’t meant to end like this'
On the night of the fire, the court heard how neighbours tried to rescue the children from the burning house but were beaten back by the smoke and flames.
When the bodies of the children were carried out of the house by police, Philpott ran forward and had to be restrained, Mr Latham said.
“It must have been quite clear the plan had gone horribly wrong.”
Philpott was heard telling people Ms Willis threatened to kill them or to set fire to the house.
“She was being set up as the culprit,” Mr Latham said.
Philpott told police he was playing snooker with Mosley before the fire broke out. He said Mosley left before 2am and Michael and Mairead fell asleep watching a film, but they were woken by a smoke alarm and he discovered a large fire in the hall.
He called 999 and handed the phone to his wife before climbing a ladder in the back garden and smashing a hole in the back window. He said the black smoke beat him back.
Once at the hospital, Philpott was overheard saying: “It wasn’t meant to end like this.”
Mr Latham told jurors covert recordings were made of conversations that took place between the Philpotts over a period of two weeks in the hotel where they were staying after the fire.
They had been authorised by the Surveillance Commissioner, he added, and were not done on the “whim” of a police officer.
Philpott is heard to say to his wife ahead of talking to the police: “’Make sure you stick to your story. This is when they start coming out with stuff to trip you up.’
“It is clear they were aware they were going to be asked by the police to come up with a detailed account of events.”
The court heard that Mairead performed a sex act on Mosley while Michael was in the hotel room at the Premier Inn on May 19.
“Mairead would do whatever Michael asked,” Mr Latham told the court
Michael was heard on the recordings telling his wife: “I’m proud of you because you didn’t want to do it.”
They were doing their best to keep Mosley on side, Mr Latham told the jury.
After his release following his first arrest, Mosley told friends he knew more than he had let on to the police.
When asked by a friend whether the Philpotts were behind the fire, Mosley said: “I don’t know, but if they are it’s just something gone wrong,” Mr Latham told the court.
Mosley then said: “What if I told you we actually rehearsed it six weeks prior to it happening?,” the jury heard.
He told a friend a plan was set for him to rescue the children from the blaze, the court heard.
Mosley said he was to kick the back door in while the Philpotts ran out of the front of the house, and he was then to go upstairs to save the children, Mr Latham told the court.
Residue of petrol, which was used as an accelerant in the fire, was found on the clothing of all three defendants.
The case was adjourned and will continue tomorrow.