Derby house fire trial: Mother 'breaks ranks' with husband who treated her 'like a slave'
A mother accused of killing her six children in a house fire at their family home “broke ranks” with her husband who is also alleged to have caused their deaths by starting the blaze, a court heard.
Under cross examination Mick Philpott was accused of being a “controlling” partner who treated his wife Mairead like a slave.
The couple along with friend Paul Mosley deny six counts of manslaughter in relation to the fire at the house at 18 Victory Road, Derby in May 2012.
But prosecutor Richard Latham QC told Mr Philpott: “Mairead has broken ranks with you. She is no longer sticking to the story.”
The QC said the unemployed driver was concerned only about himself and would use fake tears and pretend to collapse to get his own way. “This case is about you, isn't it? Me, me, me,” he claimed.
“You ruled number 18 with a rod of iron, didn't you? You wouldn't take dissent,” Mr Latham added.
Mr Philpott, who denied the claims, said he had not showered or bathed for 12 weeks prior to the fatal blaze.
He said traces of petrol were found on his clothes by police investigating the deaths because he rarely washed or changed and routinely wore the same boxer shorts and jogging bottoms.
“I try to stick to the ones I'm wearing because I don't do a lot of work,” he told the jury.
Mr Philpott insisted his relationship with Mairead, 31, was based on love - spelling out L-O-V-E for the benefit of the jury.
Under questioning from his wife's counsel, Shaun Smith, Mr Philpott denied subjugating his wife. “It's all about you, isn't it?” he was asked. “It's all about L-O-V-E - love,” Mr Philpott replied.
Mr Philpott denied trying to “blacken” his wife's name by claiming she took part in three-way sex sessions with their co-accused before and after the fire and smoking cannabis.
He also claimed she had sex with him and his mistress Lisa Willis, a mother of five, who lived with the family and their six children in the three bedroom house in the months before the tragedy.
Asked whether he had started the fire while his wife was asleep in the conservatory, Mr Philpott broke down and sobbed. “I love my kids and I would never endanger them,” he said.
During tense exchanges in the witness box he denied hurting Mrs Philpott, mother of the dead children, by bringing his mistress to live with them at the family house.
“Can you help who you fall in love with? … I didn't actually want two women in my life. It just happened and I regret it," said Mr Philpott, who has 17 children by various relationships.
Mr Smith put it to him: ”You regarded her as your property, didn't you? Your slave? That's what she was, wasn't she?“
Mr Philpott replied by shaking his head.
Mr Smith alleged that Mairead was tasked with all the domestic duties - even after her husband's lover Lisa Willis moved in. Ms Willis had four children by Mr Philpott.
”She (Mairead) did everything in that house, didn't she, even when you were having a relationship with another woman? said Mr Smith.
Mr Philpott denied treating his wife as if he “owned her” insisting: “Mairead wasn't leaving, Mairead wasn't going anywhere.”
But Mr Smith said that his wife of seven years had nowhere to go - rejecting Mr Philpott's suggestion that she could have gone and lived with his elderly mother where he claimed the unemployed driver could continue to control her.
Mr Smith said there was a “pattern” to Mr Philpott's relationships in that he was attracted to younger women. Mairead was 19 when the couple met and he was 43. Lisa Willis was 16 or 17 when their affair started, the lawyer said.
“Each (was) isolated from their families by you,” said Mr Smith. Mr Philpott insisted Ms Willis was 18 when they met and denied trying to separate her from her family. He also denied being attracted to younger women who were at their “rock bottom”.
The court heard that Mr Philpott used to visit Ms Willis before she moved in. “It wasn't just sex, I was helping with the decorating as well,” he said.
He said that he had asked his wife's permission before moving his lover into the house.
Mr Philpott denied that Mairead was unhappy with the arrangement in which he slept with the women on alternate nights. “She sure didn't show it and she sure didn't act it,” he said.
The fatal fire which killed the children as they slept in their bedrooms occurred the day before a court hearing which was to settle the custody status of the four children Ms Willis's had with Mr Philpott.
She had sparked an acrimonious battle when she walked out on the house three months before the blaze.
Mr Smith told Philpott: “She (Lisa) escaped you, didn't she? Mairead had nowhere to escape to, did she? You know that, don't you, Mr Philpott?” Mr Philpott denied the allegations. The court has previously heard Mr Philpott admit to hitting both women when they clashed over disciplining his daughter.
The court was also told that money from both women's jobs was paid into his bank account along with the family's benefits. Philpott maintained the monies were paid into a 'family account'
The trial continues.
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