The mother accused of starting the fire which killed her six children said they had been a happy and loving family prior to the fatal blaze.
Mairead Philpott, 31, told Nottingham Crown Court that her husband Mick, who is also accused of the manslaughter of the youngsters, had been her “guardian angel” after she had been raped and abused as a child and teenager.
Mrs Philpott described how she was a 19-year-old single mother at “rock bottom” when she met her husband, who was then aged 43.
She denied that the couple had a large family in order to claim benefits. Under cross examination from her defence counsel Shaun Smith QC, Mrs Philpott agreed some might see the family as “unconventional”. “Maybe to others it was but to us it was a happy family,“ she said.
“It got bigger for the love of children,” she added. Mrs Philpott said as a girl she dreamed of being a ballerina and later wanted to work in childcare.
She said she had been abused by her father and was later raped whilst on holiday as a teenager. At school she was bullied and left school before taking her GCSEs returning to take her exams but never collecting the results.
By the age of 16 she was pregnant with Duwayne – who died in the fire at Victory Road, Derby in May last year - along with his five brothers and sisters Jade, 10, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five. Duwayne, 13, died in hospital later.
However, Duwayne’s father left her when she told him she was pregnant. Asked how she felt on the birth of her son she said: “I was over the moon. I just wanted to love him and protect him.”
Her next relationship was also abusive, she said, with her boyfriend beating her up, giving her black eyes and shaving off her hair so she was unable to go out.
By the time she met Mr Philpott she was at “rock bottom”. “He was my guardian angel,” Mrs Philpott told the jury. Mrs Philpott said her future husband “cared for me and loved me and made me feel safe” and proposed to her at hospital after the birth of their first child Jade.
Mr and Mrs Philpott and another man Paul Mosley, deny six counts of manslaughter. Mrs Philpott said she did not see the other two start the blaze. The prosecution has alleged they intended to frame Mr Philpott’s mistress Lisa Willis.
Ms Willis lived with the Philpotts along with her five children – four of whom were fathered by Mr Philpott – for 10 years until three months before the blaze.
Her decision to walk out is alleged to have sparked a bitter custody battle and there was due to be a court hearing to decide the children’s future on the morning of the fire.
Mrs Philpott said had feared she would lose everything when her husband asked her for a divorce to be with Ms Willis full time. He had previously slept with the women in his caravan in the garden on alternate nights.
”I was scared of losing what I had, my family, my home,“ Mrs Philpott told the court. The jury was previously told how money from both women’s jobs would be paid into a single account controlled by Mr Philpott. His wife alleged that when she asked for money ”there would be trouble“.
She claimed that it was her husband’s idea for her to have sex with co-defendant Mr Mosley and that she had gone dogging three of four times during which she had become pregnant by a stranger and had an abortion.
Mrs Philpott said she felt “disgusted” after taking part in the sex sessions including one on the family snooker table on the night of the fire.
Asked her why she did it, by Mr Smith QC she replied: “To please Mick, to make him happy.”
She said she had hoped Ms Willis would come back to the house as her children had been distraught when she moved out. The trial continues.