Welfare dad Mick Philpott gets life for killing 6 children

Mick Philpott's botched arson plot to collect benefits spurred national debate on welfare

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 April, 2013, 4:51am

A British man was jailed for life and his wife and accomplice were given long prison sentences yesterday for accidentally killing six of their children in a bungled house fire plot aimed at getting custody of five other children.

To the rare sound of applause in the court, Mick Philpott, 56, was jailed for life, while his wife, Mairead, 32, was jailed for 17 years in a case that has horrified Britain and sparked a national debate about welfare culture.

Judge Kathryn Thirlwall said violent, jobless ex-convict Mick Philpott was a "disturbingly dangerous man".

"You have no moral compass," she told him.

Paul Mosley, who joined the couple for sexual encounters and helped carry out the plot, was also jailed for 17 years.

A jury on Tuesday found all three guilty of manslaughter following an eight-week trial.

Philpott was told he would serve a minimum of 15 years and his wife and Mosley at least eight and a half years over the deaths at the family home in Derby, central England, on May 11 last year.

All six children, aged five to 13, died from smoke inhalation.

The Philpotts' own family members applauded as the judge finished her sentencing.

"Die, Mick, die!" one shouted, while another called out: "Your own babies." In response, Philpott smiled and made an obscene gesture.

A jury found the trio guilty on Tuesday after an eight-week trial.

With 18 children in total by six different mothers, Philpott was already a nationally notorious figure, dubbed "Shameless Mick" by the press for his feckless lifestyle funded by hefty state welfare handouts which he flaunted on television shows.

Philpott's 29-year-old live-in girlfriend had left the marital home three months before the fire. She took five children with her - four of which he fathered - leaving just six youngsters in the house for whom Philpott could claim welfare payments.

Prosecutors said the Philpotts torched their home during the night in a bid to frame his ex-girlfriend and claim custody of her offspring. He was supposed to rescue the remaining children - but the petrol-fuelled fire spread faster than planned.

Thirlwall said the plot was "wicked and dangerous" and "outside the comprehension of any right-thinking person".

Outside court, Philpott's sister Dawn Bestwick told reporters that justice had been done.

The case has triggered a debate in Britain about welfare culture as the government, trying to rein in the budget deficit, brings in a major shake-up of the system this week.

The Times said welfare payments plus the wages of his wife and girlfriend paid to his account were giving Philpott the equivalent of a £100,000 (HK$1.2 million) annual salary before tax, putting him in the top 2 per cent of earners.