“There is so many levels of betrayal regarding Philpott: The betrayal of his children; the betrayal of his friends; the betrayal of a whole community; the betrayal of a nation. Philpott covered all bases.”Emma Kenny, Psychologist
“Even as a young man, Philpott was a monster.”Dr Keri Nixon, Forensic Psychologist
“He stabbed me twenty seven times and then tried to gut me...”Kim Hill
Kim Hill is born in June 1961, the youngest of three. Her father’s an army officer and her mum works in the NAFI, the shops used by service personnel.In 1976, aged just 15, Kim meets 19-year-old Mick Philpott. He’s training to be in the army. He comes across as cocky and confident. When he asks for her phone number, Kim gives it:
“You know when you get your sort of first boyfriend and you get them butterflies in your stomach...it was, you know, like that.”
She will be his first victim of many over the next 35 years.
Mick soon changes from being a catch to being controlling and violent. He imposes a curfew on her. When she’s later than his prescribed time, he hits her. But before Kim can be upset, Mick takes over the situation:
“...he started crying...saying he was sorry, it will never happen again...don’t finish with him...don’t tell my dad...and I didn’t. I felt sorry for him.”
This is, however, just the first of many slaps, punches, kicks and worse that Kim will receive. She will soon be trapped.
“He threatens her and he tells her what will happen if she leaves him. She doesn’t actually feel that she has any choices.”Emma Kenny
The private beatings become public humiliations. When she says she doesn’t want to play pool with Mick in a crowded bar, retribution is immediate:
“He got the thick end of the pool cue and whacked it straight across my mouth...In front of a pub load of blokes. And not one of them did anything. My mouth just burst open bleeding...he...made me sit, and not one bloke said a word to him.”
She starts to permanently bear his handiwork from bite-marks and bruises to broken cheekbones and fingers. Her submission is absolute.
“You never say no to Mick Philpott. You never ever say no.”
Once, he breaks her arm. On another occasion, he takes a hammer to her. He smashes her kneecap. Every time he returns from his army postings, he accuses her of affairs and violently assaults her. He starts going AWOL just so he can check on her.To cover for him, she regularly tells school that she’s been in a fight in order for them to tell her father and explain away the bruises.
After two years, Kim can’t take any more. In the summer of 1978 she leaves Mick. On 4 July, he follows her home. He waits till her father leaves for his night shift. Then he breaks in. He attacks her in her bed. He stabs her 27 times. When her mother tries to stop him, he stabs her as well. He stabs her eleven times, mainly in the back, as she tries to escape down the stairs.He returns to finish Kim:
“He’d put the knife in at the top. And pulled the knife down. He’d actually slit my stomach open.”
Neighbours call paramedics who arrive to find Mick sitting on the stairs still holding the bloodied knife:
“...he actually was laughing and said to the paramedics,‘I wouldn’t bother. She’s a goner. I’ve done a good job on her.”Dr Keri Nixon
Mick is nearly right. Her injuries are so life threatening that technically, she dies twice on the way to the hospital. Her lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder and bowel are all perforated.
But Kim survives.
She will later discover that her injuries are far worse than even the horrific scarring that covers her body.
A jury finds Mick Philpott guilty of attempted murder and wounding with intent. He’s sentenced to seven and a half years for attempted murder and a concurrent five years for GBH.
Totally unrepentant of his actions and incapable of empathising with his victim, he writes to Kim:
“He wrote to me on the basis of ‘I know that you’ll forgive me and I didn’t mean to do any harm. Come and see me soon...and when I get out, we’ll start again and get married’...I was gobsmacked, literally gobsmacked...he was prattling on like he was on holiday.”
Within four years of nearly disembowelling another human being, Mick is released. It’s 1982.
When he’s released from prison, he marries his first wife. They have three children.
The domestic violence is constant. But she’s too afraid to leave or report him to the police. He reminds her of what happened to his last woman. She just hopes that one day he will decide to leave her.
Her salvation comes in the form of 16-year-old Heather Kehoe. The forty something Mick runs away with her. Heather finds him sometimes ‘charming, always domineering, always in control.’Mick’s plan is simple. Take his children away from his first wife and move them in with Heather.
This doesn’t happen. Instead, Heather has two children. Mick’s sexual and physical abuse is so unrelenting she flees without them. After a lengthy court battle, she wins custody. For Mick it is only the beginning of his campaign against her. She will endure years of allegations.
GUARDIAN ANGELThen Mick meets Mairead. The single mum of one had been in an abusive relationship and sees Mick as a guardian angel. She eagerly moves in.
“She was ideal for Philpott, she was vulnerable, she was young, she was needy, she was isolated.”Emma Kenny, Psychologist
But even Mairead is uneasy when in 2001, Mick meets 17-year-old single mother, Lisa Willis, and makes her his mistress. But desperate not to lose a sense of security she’s never known before, Mairead agrees to an unusual arrangement.Mick parks a caravan in the front garden and typically uses it on alternate nights to have sex with his Mairead or Lisa.
“I service both of them if they both want it the same night.”
Unfaithful himself, Mick is obsessed with infidelity. He believes her brother-in-law fathered Lisa’s eldest child. He repeatedly beats her to get her to confirm his suspicion. Despite the violence, she never does.Over the next decade, the household expands until there is Mairead and her six children, Lisa and her five children, and, of course, Mick.Mick is the biological father of nine of those children.
But the children mean nothing to him. Their number only demonstrates the size of his family empire.
“Of all the offenders that I’ve researched, Philpott is the most narcissistic offender I have ever come across.”Dr Keri Nixon, Forensic Psychologist
It’s Mairead and Lisa who ensure the children are well fed and clothed and regularly attend school. There is no reason for social services to intervene.
The two women also work to supplement the household income. But all their wages and welfare benefits are paid into Mick’s bank account.
With no reason to work, he doesn’t.
The Philpott income from benefits alone will eventually be in excess of sixty thousand pounds a year.
“His children become numbers, numbers equal money: The more children, the more money; the more children, the better the opportunity in terms of housing. Children were just another part of Philpott’s selfish egocentric, narcissistic anti-social personality to get what Philpott wants.”Dr Keri Nixon
His domestic violence has lessened but his control is still absolute. Mairead and Lisa aren’t even permitted a front door key. Whatever he orders, they obey. He is King Pin.
In 2003, he marries Mairead. Her bridesmaid is Lisa.Mick develops an obsession with Lisa. On three occasions he asks Mairead for a divorce in order to marry Lisa. These are some rare examples of Mairead refusing him. She will risk everything, including her children, but she will not lose her marriage.
SUPER-SCOUNGER SHAMELESS MICK
Their home in Allenton, Derby is a three-bedroom semi detached. Even with the caravan, three adults and nine children make conditions cramped. When Mick makes both Mairead and Lisa pregnant at the same time, he asks Derby council for a bigger house. They say that nothing is available.
Believing a television appeal will get him a bigger house, in 2006, Mick does the talk-show rounds, tabloid interviews and documentary requests.
When MP Ann Widdecombe suggests he works to support his family, Mick calls her an ‘interfering bitch.’
“Some people call me a scrounger, but I’m not. I’m just a good father.”
His publicity drive fails to secure a bigger council house. It does, however, lead to a nickname that plays on the title of a popular fictional series about Britain’s underclass. Philpott is now known nationally as ‘Shameless Mick’.
He becomes the personification of the worst excesses of the welfare state and shorthand for everything that is wrong with Britain.
In February 2012, Lisa tells Mairead she’s taking her children swimming. In fact, they’re all leaving. So as not to raise suspicion, they leave with only the clothes they’re wearing; and, of course, their swimming costumes.This will later be said to be the ‘catalyst’ or trigger for the resultant tragedy.
At first, Mick tries sweet talking Lisa back. He then resorts to bullying. When that fails he devises a plan.
55-year-old Mick Philpott is now the biological parent of at least fifteen children.
He is father to none.
He’s about to become the killer of six.
“Any mother...would recoil in horror at the idea of lighting a fire beneath where your children are sleeping. I have never come across such selfish disregard for their children...Mairead doesn’t protect her children, in fact, she actually puts them in harm. And that’s unforgivable.” Dr Keri Nixon, Forensic PsychologistIt’s 10 May 2012. Mick and Mairead Philpott put their six children to bed. At 13, Duwayne is the eldest and is the ‘protector’ of his siblings. Ten-year-old Jade is the ‘mother hen’ of her younger brothers. They are nine-year-old John, eight-year-old Jack, six-year-old Jesse and the youngest, Jayden, is five.“Imagining them being put to bed that evening, they’re kissing their mum and dad goodnight, they are talking to each other, being like children, you know, excited little boys and girls, in bed. And Philpott and Mairead are doing that knowing what they are about to do.” Emma Kenny, PsychologistThey then invite over Paul Moseley. All three start drinking heavily. Mairead gets stoned. She then has a threesome with Philpott and Moseley on the snooker table.At around 3am, they pour petrol on the floor. Paul Mosley removes the petrol containers so there’ll be no incriminating evidence. At 3:30am Mick sets the petrol alight. He starts the fire in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs. He’s now cut off the children’s escape route. They exit and as the fire takes hold, they move to a neighbour’s garden. Mairead then rings the emergency services.OPERATOR: What’s your name duck? MAIRHEAD: Mrs Philpott OPERATOR: How many kids are in the house Mrs Philpott? MAIRHEAD: There’s six of them.Mick Philpott joins in the conversation:OPERATOR: Michael, can you see any flames? PHILPOTT: Nah, all I can see is black smoke. I can’t see anything else than black smoke... OPERATOR: ...Have you any idea what caused the fire? PHILPOTT: I’ve no idea mate. We’ve just been woke up by the alarm.Philpott starts to tell neighbours he thinks Lisa started the fire. Frantic neighbours are struck by his behaviour.“There was no emotion out of none of them. If he would have grabbed hold of me and said ‘Please, come on, let’s get in there. My kids are in there!’ I know that would have been a true man as a father.” Jamie Butler, neighbourJamie tries to get into the back bedroom. It’s impossible. Sickeningly quickly, all realise the smoke and flames are impenetrable. The children are trapped inside inhaling poisonous fumes.Fire fighters arrive. Professionally they’re experienced enough to know the children are lost. Personally, each one battles to save them.A small mercy is that the autopsies will later show the children’s deaths are ‘swift and, it would seem, without pain.’When it is possible, the first body is brought out. It is ten-year-old Jade. The last is thirteen-year-old Duwayne.“...you just knew as soon as you see them come out, their little souls were gone.” Darren Butler, NeighbourPhilpott asks his friends Sharon and Mick Russell to accompany him to the mortuary. Philpott looks at his dead children and shows no emotion. Bizarrely, when Mick starts to break down in tears, it’s Philpott that tries to console him:“...he was comforting me. I was sitting there crying my head off and he was comforting me. You know, I am supposed to be the one comforting him.” Mick RussellBut not all of Philpott’s children are dead. Duwayne is on life support. So they go to see him. Despite the life and death situation, Philpott and Mairead wonder off and leave their dying son several times. On one occasion, Mick Russell is appalled by what occupies Philpott’s attention:“All of a sudden I heard him shout, ‘Mick!’ And I turned round and I said ‘What?’ And he’s grabbing this girls arse and saying, “This is what I like.’ I said, ‘You got a lad in there dying mate and five of your kids are dead. Is that what you’re still thinking about?”
In April 2013, as Mick Philpott began his life sentence in Wakefield prison, a national debate erupted over the state of welfare dependency in Britain. Even the Chancellor George Osborne joined in by questioning whether the welfare state should subsidise such people.In May, Mairead’s own father said her appeal against her sentence was a waste of taxpayer’s money adding;“She should have got as long as Mick did for what she did.”In June it was revealed that Mick Philpott was being interviewed by police in his high-security prison. Witnesses, who had been interviewed during the investigation into his arson, had broken down and revealed their rapes by Philpott. One dated back to 1996. The demolition of the burnt out house at 18 Victory Road also began that month.In July, fourteen months after their deaths, the six children finally had gravestones put on their graves. The local community had raised the £15,000 necessary for their funeral and memorial.“And the saddest thing is that I doubt anybody will remember the names of those six children: Duwayne, Jade, John, Jack, Jesse, and Jayden. But I guarantee every one of us will remember Mick Philpott. And that's a tragedy.” Emma Kenny, PsychologistFor Kim Hill, Philpott’s first victim, the damage he inflicted never seems to end. She was forced to have a hysterectomy because of a prolapsed womb caused by Philpott’s stabbings.And then Kim’s mother Shirley was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the liver. The family remain convinced that the cancer resulted from the scarring inflicted by Philpott when he stabbed her eleven times. They believe that she is the last victim of Mick Philpott.
STICKING TO THE STORY In December 1978 Philpott had been tried, sentenced and jailed for GBH and attempted murder. But this previous conviction can’t be revealed to the court and it’s decided to reduce the charge against Philpott from murder to manslaughter. In March 2013, at Nottingham Crown Court, he is charged with six counts of manslaughter. He pleads ‘Not Guilty.’ Unbeknownst to him, the police have maintained their bugging operation. The van that takes him and Mairead to their first court appearance records them repeating the phrase of ‘sticking to the story’.In court, Philpott is once again the centre of attention:“It was the Philpott show. His description of his sexual behaviour, references to his dogging, to his threesomes, to his sexual desires. The fact that that even featured at the trial, following the death of his six children is shocking.” Dr Keri Nixon, Forensic PsychologistAs deplorable as the spectacle is, there is the consolation that he is sealing his own fate with the jurors. Both they and the judge come to see that here is a man without a ‘moral compass’.He is so delusional that he writes to his friend Mick Russell of the rape fantasies he wants to put into practise as soon as the trial is over. The letter has echoes of the equally misjudged letter he sent to his first victim Kim Hill. In that, he asked a woman he’d nearly killed to consider marriage. In this letter, he describes to his friend how they’ll visit the kids’ graves and force Mairead to have sex with them.Brothers Jamie and Darren Butler give evidence. Their descriptions of Philpott and Mairead on the night of the fire are damning. Darren tries to catch the attention of either of the accused. Neither will look at him. The court hears how petrol additives are on the parent’s clothing, and on the jeans, jumper and one of the shoes of Philpott’s friend, Paul Mosley. Witnesses report that Paul had said they’d all practised starting the fire six weeks prior to the crime. The image of the children being at least well cared for also starts to crack. It emerges that all but one of them went to sleep in their clothes that night. The parents were too intent on getting drunk, stoned and having a threesome to even dress their children in their pyjamas.On 3 April, Mick Philpott, 56, Mairead Philpott, 31 and their friend Paul Mosley, 46 are found guilty of manslaughter.“...this is a unique sentencing exercise. You have each been convicted of 6 counts of manslaughter. Each count represents the death of a child.” Mrs Justice Thirwall, Sentencing JudgeMick Philpott is given a life sentence with a minimum of 15 years inside.Mairead and Mosley are jailed for 17 years.DIE MICK DIE As Philpott was lead away the court echoes with cries of ‘Die, Mick, die’. He responds true to form. He sticks two fingers up.Mairead and Mosley will likely serve only half their sentence. But Mick will not be released if the Parole Board considers him still a threat. Even then, he’ll be on a ‘life license’ meaning he could be recalled to jail at any time.
ACCIDENT OR ARSON?On 11 May, as a shocked nation watches the news footage of the smouldering wreckage of 18 Victory Road, Lisa Willis is arrested. As a result of Philpott’s accusations to everyone and anyone, the police must deal with their prime suspect. Lisa’s children are taken into care. Of the six children that went to bed at 18 Victory Road the night before, only the eldest, Duwayne, survives. He is on a ventilator in Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Various people keep a bedside vigil by him. Philpott and Mairead are concerned that the hospital hasn’t provided them with food. They order a Chinese takeaway. Onlookers are appalled when Mick and Mairead Philpott have a food fight. On 12 May Lisa is released without charge. The police confirm the fire was started deliberately. Three days after the fire, Philpott and Mairead switch off Duwayne’s life support machine. Grief and shock overcome the community. Many raise money so that the children can have decent funerals and donate it to the Philpotts. The reaction of Mr and Mrs Philpott seems inappropriate. They go on shopping sprees. “The way they was acting...I started to have my suspicions. They were going downtown shopping for clothes...you know, I couldn’t function if that was me. I wouldn’t want to get up in the morning.” Sharon Russell, family friend With no home, the Philpotts stay at a local hotel. When Mairead tries to discuss what has gone on Philpott tells her to ‘shush’. He’s paranoid the police may have bugged their rooms. He’s right. Just four days after the fire, police have been given permission to secretly record the parent’s conversations. They record Philpott telling Mairead; “You make sure you stick to your story.” Five days after the fire, Philpott tells the police he wants to hold a press conference. He gives what he thinks is a masterful performance: “I’ve actually been down to my...our home, and...what we saw .. we just cannot believe it.” Neighbour Darren Butler can’t believe it either. He thought Philpott was mimicking grief on the night of the fire and put it down to shock. He’s now suspicious enough to pass on an almost unbelievable suggestion: A father and mother deliberately burnt their six children to death. Many are now thinking the same. Some of Philpott’s press statements ring alarm bells. Philpott says he’s overwhelmed by the help and support he and Mairead are receiving. Some think this is the last thing a distraught father would be feeling at such a time: “The only thing on your mind, during that press conference is ‘Please find who killed my children.’ That's all you concentrate on. And when I watch that press conference, I struggle to see that at all. All I can see is a man, almost with a script, thinking it’s important to let everyone know how grateful he is. And let me tell you, psychologically, the last thing you are after all your children have died in a house fire, is grateful.” Emma Kenny, Psychologist “There was not one tear on that man’s face. There is not one part of that man that feels any remorse for those children. Because the only person that he has ever felt anything for, is Mick Philpott.” Dr Keri Nixon, Forensic Psychologist Philpott’s first victim, Kim Hill, also watches the conference. She knows he’s killed his children. When Philpott hears his neighbour Adam Taylor is being accused of starting the fire, he passes this onto the police. Taylor and his wife are arrested on six counts of murder. Philpott’s initial plan is unravelling. He’s now pointing the finger at anyone who will take suspicion away from him. But with mounting evidence of who the real fire-starters were, on 29 May, police arrest Mick and Mairead Philpott on suspicion of murder. When the children’s funeral is held, prison authorities refuse to let their parents attend.
On 10 March 2012, the police are called to a confrontation between Philpott and Lisa. She still refuses to return to him.It’s becoming obvious to Philpott that his usual combination of sweet talk, threats and bullying will not win this woman back.He tells Mairead of his plan to win back Lisa. They will start a fire in their home, blame Lisa, win custody of her children, and then Lisa will have to return. For the plan to work, Mairead must risk the lives of her children, and this will be in order for Philpott to win back his mistress.Mairead agrees.She will do anything to maintain her marriage.However, for Philpott, Mairead is utterly ‘expendable’.
Philpott includes his best mate, Paul Mosley, in the plan. Paul had been convicted of robbery as a teenager, but has not been in trouble with the police since.
Philpott starts mentioning to friends and acquaintances that Lisa has threatened to set fire to the family home. When he posts on Facebook the accusation that her brother in law fathered her eldest, Lisa reacts. She phones Mick and he alleges she threatens him.Philpott is delighted. He immediately rings the police and demands her arrest.He’s furious when they refuse.He repeatedly tries to draw the police into his plan. He repeatedly fails.But a court hearing is set for 11 May to determine the children’s arrangements. Most think Philpott hasn’t a chance of winning custody.But he says he’s not bothered. He has his plan.
THE HERO OF THE HOURHis plan will later be described as ‘outside the comprehension of any right thinking person.’ He intends to start the fire the night before the court hearing. He wants the court to hear how in the moment of crisis, as the flames licked around the base of the house, he, Michael Philpott had stepped up, using a ladder, to rescue his trapped and screaming children.
The court would surely have no choice but to award custody to the heroic fire-fighting and child saving Mick. And surely the police would now arrest the arsonist and child endangering Lisa.And then, when it was all over, and Lisa was released, she would come back to her Mick. And they would all once again be a big, big happy family.
It would have been miraculous if any part of this plan had actually worked.
At 3:30am on 11 May 2012, at 18 Victory Road, Derby, there would be no miracles.