British couple sentenced over 6 children's death
A British man was today jailed for life after being found guilty of starting a fire that killed his six children, while his wife and a friend were sentenced to 17 years in prison for their role as co-conspirators.
Mick, 56, and Mairead Philpott, 31, and their friend Paul Mosley, 46, were found guilty yesterday for triggering the blaze on May 11 last year at the couple's home in Derby, in the East Midlands region of England.
"I have not the slightest doubt that you, Michael Philpott, were the driving force behind this shockingly dangerous enterprise. You bark orders and they obey... you were the kingpin," Justice Thirlwall said during the sentencing today at the end of an eight-week trial at Nottingham Crown Court.
She described Mick as a "disturbingly dangerous man" with "no moral compass" and said his guiding principle was "what Mick Philpott wants, Mick Philpott gets".
Philpott had been fighting a custody battle with his former girlfriend, Lisa Willis, and had planned the fire as a means to frame her.
"It is, in my judgment, a uniquely grave set of offences," the judge said in reference to the shocking crime. Mairead Philpott's barrister said she faced risks in prison because she had been convicted of killing children and tried to persuade the judge to pass a lower sentence.
The judge agreed that she had "loved and cared" for her children but ruled that the mother had nonetheless behaved like a "slave" to her husband.
"You were prepared to do anything no matter how humiliating to keep him happy and as a result of what you did all your children lost their lives," Justice Thirlwall said.
The couple looked visibly shocked and tearful as they was handed their sentences, with the father shaking his head and wiping away tears and the mother bursting into tears.
Family members in the public gallery applauded as the judge finished her sentencing in the case described as the most upsetting ever dealt with by Derbyshire Police.
They had suspected Philpott soon after the incident when he made an appeal pretending to be overwhelmed by grief.
The police took the unusual step of bugging the hotel room he was staying in and gathered that he had set the fire himself by pouring petrol in his hallway and igniting it.
His former partner, Willis, had lived with the couple and slept with Philpott on alternate nights while at the house.
His wife and girlfriend were said to have lived happily with one another for a decade but Willis left Philpott three months before the deadly fire taking her five children, four of whom were fathered by him.
The fatal blaze engulfed the house in the early hours of the morning on May 11, 2012, as the children slept just hours before Philpott, who was father to a total of 17 children by five different women.
He and Miss Willis were due to appear at a pre-scheduled court hearing to discuss residency of their children.
Philpott's plan was to portray himself as the would-be hero who attempted to rescue his children but who was tragically beaten back by the flames.
The police were suspicious of his story from the start due to his erratic behaviour.
Barristers for the Philpotts told a sentencing hearing yesterday that they had been good parents and in spite of their complex private lives their children had been doing well.
It was also revealed that Philpott had been on bail at the time of the fire after a violent road rage attack.
The prosecution had outlined all of Philpott's past offences, which the judge said she took into account in deciding the life sentence, with a minimum term of 15 years behind bars.