Mick Philpott is accused of hatching the scheme to set up his former mistress and diminish her chances of winning a residency court hearing involving their children.
Jurors at Nottingham Crown Court, where he and his wife Mairead are on trial for the manslaughter of the youngsters, heard Philpott was livid when Lisa Willis left him three months before the blaze, and embarked upon a plan to set her up and point the finger of blame at her for setting fire to the family home in Victory Road in Allenton, Derby.
Richard Latham QC told the jury: “Michael Philpott, it won’t surprise you to know, was the prime mover and dominant player in this unlawful and highly dangerous enterprise that, in the end, went so horribly wrong.”
Philpott denies six counts of manslaughter. His 31-year-old wife and a third defendant, 46-year-old Paul Mosley, also deny the same six charges.
Mick and Mairead Philpott’s children – Jade, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13 – all perished after the fire which engulfed their home as they slept in their beds in the early hours of May 11 last year.
A total of 11 children also lived there until February – six were those of Mick and Mairead Philpott, while four were his children with Ms Willis. Another child was Ms Willis’s with another man.
The court heard after Ms Willis ended her 10-year relationship with Philpott, he began making reports to the police that she had threatened him and the family.
The pair had been due in court the morning of the fire to discuss residency of their children.
Mr Latham told the jury that about a fortnight before the fire Philpott told friends he had an idea for a way of getting her and the children back.
“He told people he had a plan up his sleeve and that she wasn’t going to get away with it – watch this space.”
The court heard how the children slept in the bedrooms while Mairead Philpott slept in either the living room or the conservatory.
Her husband slept in a caravan outside with Ms Willis. But she became increasingly unhappy with the domestic set-up, in which Philpott was controlling, and had decided to leave a short while before the fire but did not tell Philpott for fear of his reaction.
“She knew that to simply announce to Michael Philpott that she found the relationship set-up unacceptable would provoke a singularly unpleasant reaction,” Mr Latham said. “He was the one who made the decisions, the women did not.”
When she returned to the house on February 14 to collect belongings there was an incident on the doorstep with Philpott, and the police were called.
“She had stood up to him; he was no longer in control and that was absolutely unacceptable to him,” Mr Latham said.
When the 999 call made by the Philpotts at the time of the fire, at 3.46am, was played to the court Philpott tried to leave the dock, saying “I can’t listen to it” but was made to sit down by security officers. He sobbed, with his head bowed and hands over his ears as the call was played out.
The court heard how neighbours tried to rescue the children but were beaten back by the smoke and flames.
When the bodies were carried out of the house by police, Philpott ran forward and had to be restrained, Mr Latham said. “It must have been quite clear the plan had gone horribly wrong.”
Philpott told police he was playing snooker with Mosley before the fire broke out. He said Mosley left before 2am and the couple fell asleep watching a film, but were woken by a smoke alarm and he discovered a large fire in the hall.
He called 999 and handed the phone to his wife before climbing a ladder in the back garden and smashing a hole in the back window, but said the smoke beat him back.
At the hospital, Philpott was overheard saying: “It wasn’t meant to end like this.”
Mr Latham told jurors covert recordings were made of conversations between the Philpotts in the hotel where they were staying after the fire. Philpott is heard to say to his wife ahead of talking to the police: “‘Make sure you stick to your story. This is when they start coming out with stuff to trip you up.”
The trial continues today.