Tears of dad whose six children died in ‘letterbox’ blaze

THE father of six siblings who lost their lives in a suspected arson attack broke down in tears today as he issued a statement thanking fire crews for their efforts to save his children.

Speaking at a press conference just five days after the fatal fire in Allenton, Derby, Mick Philpott said his 13-year-old son Duwayne’s organs had been donated to save the life of another child.

Flanked by his wife Mairead, who was also distraught during the five-minute news conference, Mr Philpott also thanked members of the local community for their “overwhelming” support since the tragedy.

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During the news conference, the Assistant Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police, Steve Cotterill, confirmed that the seat of the fire was below the letterbox in the front door of the the house.

Investigations had also shown petrol was used as an accelerant, the officer said.

Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, seven, Jessie, six, and Jayden, five, all perished in the blaze, while Duwayne Philpott died of his injuries in Birmingham Children’s Hospital at the weekend with his parents at his bedside.

The six children, who all died from the effects of smoke, were asleep in their beds upstairs when the blaze broke out at the semi-detached house in the early hours last Friday.

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Mr Philpott, speaking at Derby Conference Centre, frequently dabbed away tears with a tissue as he thanked the emergency services.

Disclosing that Duwayne’s organs had been donated to help another child, the devastated father said: “That makes us happy and it takes a bit of the pain away.

“We grew up in a community that’s been through a lot of problems with violence and to see this community come together like it has, it’s too overwhelming.

“Those poor gentlemen from the fire brigade, who saw what we saw - my heart goes out to them.”

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Mr Philpott, who is thought to have been alerted to the blaze by a smoke alarm, said: “First of all, I want to thank my three eldest children because they have helped us cope.

“And then there’s a young lad who tried to get in the house the same as myself.

“Then of course there is the four firemen, the police, the ambulances, the doctors and nurses - everybody who tried to help save our children.

“We can’t express our gratitude enough. It’s not just us that have suffered, it’s them as well - it’s everybody.”

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Smoke from the fire travelled up the stairs of Mr Philpott’s home while he and his wife were on the ground floor, Mr Cotterill said.

Appealing for further witnesses, he added: “I would like to thank members of the community who have come forward with information to date.

“Since my last appeal more people have come forward and I’m grateful to everyone who has contacted us.

“I would ask people to continue helping us with our investigation by checking the area they live for signs of discarded containers which may have contained petrol.

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“I am also appealing for forecourt staff to come forward if they can recall selling petrol in a container to anyone in the days leading up to the fire.”

Mr Philpott, said to have fathered 17 children, is well known in the local community due to media reports surrounding his large family.

The 54-year-old, who was dubbed “Shameless Mick” in 2007 after reportedly demanding a larger council house, has yet to be spoken to in detail by police.

Although the motive for the arson is not yet known, Mr Cotterill said it was common knowledge in the local community that Mr and Mrs Philpott and their children lived at the property.

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Whoever was responsible for the fire should examine their conscience and hand themself in to the police, Mr Cotterill said.

“The investigation is progressing very well and we are continuing with our examination of the scene,” the officer told reporters.

“What I can tell you is that the fire was started deliberately. There is a clear indication that petrol was used as an accelerant to set the fire.

“The consequences of that were that a fire took hold and smoke then went upstairs to the bedrooms where the children were sleeping. Mr and Mrs Philpott were elsewhere in the house on the ground floor and thankfully they managed to escape.”

• A 28-year-old woman and 38-year-old man, both from Derby, were arrested by officers investigating the deaths but were released without charge on Saturday

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