Michael Philpott trial: Disappearance of mistress was catalyst for tragic house fire, court is told

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A JURY has been told that the catalyst for the deliberate house fire in Derby, which tragically killed six children, was the disappearance of the mistress of former Mansfield man Michael Philpott.

It is alleged Philpott (56) set up a plan to blame his mistress Lisa Willis (28) for the blaze.

But Nottingham Crown Court heard that Willis has denied ever threatening to torch the house in Victory Road, Allenton, Derby.

Philpott, his wife Mairead (31) and co-accused Paul Mosley (46), pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of the children on 11th May last year.

Richard Latham QC opening the case for the prosecution, told the jury Philpott was a ‘totally controlling and manipulative man’.

Up to February last year, Lisa Willis and her five children, four of them by Philpott, lived at the three bedroom semi in Derby with Philpott and his wife and their six children.

Philpott slept in a caravan at the side of the house with his mistress.

His wife slept in either the living room or the conservatory, which was next to a games room that contained a full size snooker table.

Prior to last February, Philpott had sexual relations with both women but often said he preferred his relationship with Willis, said Mr Latham.

Philpott had spoken of divorcing his wife, but eventually Willis found the whole set up unacceptable.

On 11th February she pretended to take her children swimming but disappeared with them to a secret refuge.

Philpott wanted the children back and on the day of the fire, a court hearing was due to take place.

It is alleged Philpott told a friend: “There’s no way she’s having those kids, just you wait and see.”

Mr Latham told the jury: “We say that once it became clear that Lisa Willis was going to do what she wanted, he began to set her up.”

The jury was told petrol was used to start a fire in the hallway of the house.

Mr Latham said: “We don’t say the defendants intended the deaths of any of the six children, but set the fire for another motive.

“We say this was a plan that went horribly wrong.”

The six children were asleep upstairs.

The court was told that Philpott had three children by his first wife Pamela Lomax.

He then met 14-year-old Heather Keogh who described him as being ‘domineering, but charming’.

In 1996 his wife discovered the relationship and Philpott and the teenager, then 16, ran off to Derby. They had two children together.

She worked as a cleaner at East Midlands Airport and her pay went into Philpott’s bank account.

Mr Latham said: “He did not want to work, he just wanted a home full of kids and the benefit money.”

Later, after a violent incident, Keogh left him.

She discovered he had started a relationship with his present wife Mairead, and Lisa Willis was living with them.

The trial continues and is expected to last six weeks.