Parents of Derby death blaze children arrested on suspicion of murder

 

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The Independent Online

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 this morning together at an address in Derby city centre following the blaze at the semi-detached house earlier this month.

Forensic analysis revealed the fire had been started by someone pouring a "substantial" amount of petrol through the letterbox and setting it alight.

All six children, aged between five and 13, were asleep at the time of the attack which happened in the early hours of the morning on 11 May.

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 later in the intensive care unit of Birmingham Children's Hospital two days later. His parents were by his bedside.

Mr Philpott, 55, an unemployed father of 17 children from several different relationships, has given numerous newspapers 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 and a series with former Tory minister Anne Widdecombe. 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 who were all upstairs at the time.

The fire led to outpourings of local and international support for the Philpotts. The couple made a brief appearance at a news conference five days after the blaze in 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. "In view of the arrests, 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.

"They have my personal reassurance that we will deal with their information sensitively," he said.

Police have stressed the complex nature of the investigation and urged the public to give them time to continue their inquiries. 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 it was increasing its presence on Victory Road with a mobile police station returning to the area along with extra patrols. It said forensic examinations were continuing at the house where hundreds of flowers and toys have been laid in tribute to the young 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 well known that whoever set the fire would have known there were a large number of children most likely inside.

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