London: A British couple have been found guilty of starting a fire that killed their six children in what the prosecution described as an "attention-grabbing stunt that went tragically wrong".
Mick Philpott, 56, and Mairead Philpott, 31, and their friend Paul Mosley, 46, now face lengthy jail terms for triggering the blaze on May 11 last year at the couple?s home in Derby, in the East Midlands region of England.
They will be sentenced for manslaughter at Nottingham Crown Court later. Prosecutors said that the couple had hatched a plan to start the fire and then rescue the children, pinning the blame on Mick Philpott`s former mistress Lisa Willis. Philpott had been fighting a custody battle with Willis.
Five of the Philpotts` children between the ages of five and 10 died in their home on Victory Road and the sixth, 13-year-old boy from Mairead’s previous relationship died later in hospital.
Derbyshire Police said it was the most upsetting case the force had ever dealt with. "This is a shocking case for everyone involved.
Six young children lost their lives needlessly in a fire and all our efforts have been focused on getting justice for those children," said assistant chief constable Steve Cotterill.
They had suspected Philpott soon after the incident when he made a television appeal seemingly overwhelmed by grief.
The police took the unusual step of bugging the hotel room he was staying in and gathered that he had set the fire himself by pouring petrol in his hallway and igniting it.
His former partner, Willis, had lived with the couple and slept with Philpott on alternate nights while at the house.
His wife and girlfriend were said to have lived happily with one another for a decade but Willis left Philpott three months before the deadly fire taking her five children, four of whom were fathered by him.
He had these two women, he`d been on television, he was a bit of a sort of local celebrity almost, and he probably had a great confidence that he could get away with all sorts of things," said Professor David Cantor, an investigative psychologist at the University of Huddersfield.
The fatal blaze had engulfed the house as the children slept just hours before Philpott, who was father to a total of 17 children by five different women, and Willis were due to appear at a pre-scheduled court hearing to discuss residency of their children.
Jade Philpott, 10, and her brothers John, 9, Jack, 8, Jesse, 6, Jayden, 5, and Duwayne, 13, all died from smoke inhalation at their three-bed council house.
Philpott?s plan was to portray himself as the would-be hero who attempted to rescue his children but was tragically beaten back by the flames.
However, the police were suspicious of his story from the start due to his`s erratic behaviour.
The man, who was often referred to as "Shameless Mick", was seen as saying "it`s not over yet" as he was led away from court after an eight-week trial while his 31-year-old wife stared at the floor and wept.
Jurors heard that Philpott had been violent and controlling towards Willis. "He (Mick Philpott) lived in a world where he could get away with anything.
Philpott also had a history of violence against women dating back to a 1978 attempted murder conviction for a frenzied stabbing attack against his former girlfriend and a serious assault on her mother.