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.