Parents arrested on suspicion of murder after Derby house fire that killed six of their children

Mr Philpott was earlier praised by police for his 'valiant' attempts to rescuehis sleeping children

Police investigating the deaths of six children in an arson attack on their home have arrested their parents on suspicion of murder.

Mick Philpott and his wife, Mairead, were detained early yesterday morning at an address in Derby city centre following the blaze at their semi-detached house earlier this month.

All six children, aged between five and 13, were asleep at the time of the attack which happened in the early hours of 11 May. Police say petrol was used to start the blaze.

Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, seven, Jessie, six, and Jayden, five, all died of smoke inhalation during the blaze. Their elder brother Duwayne, 13, died in the intensive care unit of Birmingham Children's Hospital two days later.

Mr Philpott, 55, an unemployed father of 17 children from several different relationships, has given numerous newspaper and television interviews after becoming a symbol of Britain's so-called benefits culture. He was dubbed "Shameless Mick" over his demands to be rehoused by his local authority and following appearances on The Jeremy Kyle Show. Shortly before the fire, he had been living at the property with Mairead, 31, and his girlfriend, with whom he had four children.

Neighbours in Victory Road in Allenton, Derby, expressed their dismay at the arrests. Mr Philpott was earlier praised by police for making "valiant" attempts to rescue the sleeping children.

The fire led to outpourings of support for the Philpotts. The couple made a brief appearance at a news conference during which they both wept uncontrollably. Mr Philpott thanked emergency services and well-wishers before announcing that Duwayne's organs had been donated for transplant.

He said the thought of helping another child "makes us happy and it takes a bit of the pain away".

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill of Derbyshire Police called on anyone with further information to come forward. "I would urge anyone who may have been holding back, not felt comfortable to voice their concerns or not had the confidence, to do so now.

Police have stressed the complex nature of the investigation. A caravan and a minivan believed to have been used as overspill accommodation at the house have already been taken away by investigators. The force said forensic examinations were continuing at the house where hundreds of flowers and toys have been laid in tribute to the victims.

Among the lines of inquiry police investigated was whether anyone had a grudge against the family or if it was linked to Mr Philpott's celebrity. Mr Cotterill said that the family was so notorious it would have been known there were a large number of children in the house.

Two people arrested on suspicion of murder the day after the fire were later released without charge.