A father accused of starting the fire in which his six children died said he had sex and smoked cannabis to blot out the horror of the blaze.
Mick Philpott, 56, put his head in his hands and slumped forward, doubling up and slipping out of sight in the witness box, as he gave evidence in his defence at the manslaughter trial.
“I was finding it very hard to cope. Having sex and smoking cannabis was one way of blocking it out. It was my idea not my wife’s,” he told Nottingham Crown Court.
The unemployed driver recalled feeling “hysterical” as he tried at first to punch and then smash through an upstairs window with a child’s tennis racquet in a bid to rescue the six children who were asleep at the family home in Victory Road, Derby, last May when the fire started.
Mr Philpott described how he and his wife Mairead were woken by the smoke alarm shortly after 2am.
He said he spotted an “orange glow” and on realising the house was alight he thought “my kids”. After failing to reach the children’s bedrooms upstairs he got dressed and used a ladder to climb to a first floor window.
“I was hysterical. How do you explain trying to get into your babies? You can’t explain it,” he said.
Earlier Mr Philpott, wearing a dark suit and a purple tie, described how he and his wife Mairead, 31, had spent the evening of the blaze with friend Paul Mosley, 46. All three deny six charges of manslaughter in relation to the fire.
The jury was told how Mr Philpott drove to a house to purchase cannabis for Mr Mosley. Later, after playing snooker with his friend whilst his wife watched television and made cups of coffee, the three engaged in a sexual act of which he said he was now “ashamed”.
He said the night of the fire was the first time the trio had had sex together. They were to go on to do it “three or four” times after the blaze including one occasion which was captured on a police surveillance tape, the court heard. “It was something that happened and it shouldn’t have happened but I’m not happy,” he said.
Mr Philpott also said that the couple had been “dogging” previously in which they would be watched and watch other couples having sex.
On one occasion Mairead had become pregnant after having sex with a stranger and underwent an abortion, he said. Mr Philpott said he had been too ashamed to tell police about his sexual behaviour and drug taking.
Giving evidence the father of 17 admitted that neighbours found his living arrangements with his wife, mistress and their 11 children “disgusting”.
He said he regretted previous television appearances on Jeremy Kyle and with Ann Widdecombe after which they received death threats and people began to shout at him and his family in the streets.
Mr Philpott said he decided to take part in the programmes because he needed a bigger house. "They (people) called them (the children) brats, scum of the earth," Mr Philpott said.
Under questioning from Anthony Orchard QC he conceded that he was not a shy man and that he often made enemies with people - until they got to know him, he claimed.
“I come across as too strong, too powerful. I have always been a happy go lucky guy,” he said.
Mr Philpott denied controlling and bullying the two women with whom he lived. Both went to work. He drove them to their jobs and the children to school each day whilst undertaking “general fatherly duties” such as playing snooker, darts and teaching the children to write, he said.
Both women’s wages were paid into his bank account along with the family’s benefit payments. But he told the jury that they had access to money and were free to come and go as they pleased. “My wallet was always left on the side with the bank cards in it. They never had to ask for money,” he said.
Mairead did the bulk of the housework and childcare, he said, whilst his “bond” with his mistress Lisa Willis, who had five children – four by him - had become stronger until they were “inseparable”.
He would spend the day with his wife whilst sleeping with his mistress in a caravan parked outside the home. “I treated her (Lisa) like a queen," he said.
However, she eventually left him in the months leading up to the blaze taking the children with her despite him having asked his wife “three or four times” for a divorce.
Mr Philpott and Ms Willis became embroiled in a battle for custody of the children. They were due to go to court on the morning of the blaze. Ms Willis had previously obtained a non-molestation order against her former lover.
At the time of the fire, which was started by petrol poured in the hallway of the house late at night, the Philpotts and their six children were content in the three bedroom house, he said.
Jade, 10, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, died during the blaze. Their brother Duwayne, 13, was taken to Derby Royal Hospital and transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital but died three days later.
The trial continues.
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