Jury retires in trial over children's fire deaths

Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson.

A jury has retired to consider verdicts on three people accused of murdering four children in a petrol bomb attack as they slept in their beds at home.

Zak Bolland, 23, launched the fatal attack after being involved in a petty feud with the victim's 17-year-old brother Kyle Pearson, a jury at Manchester Crown Court has heard.

Bolland along with David Worrall, 25, removed a fence panel from the garden of Michelle Pearson's home, smashed a kitchen window and two lit petrol bombs were tossed inside at around 5am on December 11 last year.

The second bomb "exploded" near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs as flames engulfed the three-bedroom mid-terrace house on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, sleeping in a front bedroom, all perished in the blaze.

Their mother, Mrs Pearson, 36, screamed, "Not the kids! Not my kids!" before being overcome from the smoke, heat and flames.

She was rescued, severely injured, along with her youngest daughter, Lia, aged three, who died in hospital two days later.

Demi Pearson

Kyle Pearson, who had been feuding with Bolland, managed to escape along with a friend, Bobby Harris, who was also staying at the house.

Bolland, his girlfriend Courtney Brierley, 20, and father-of-one Worrall all deny four counts of murder.

They also deny three counts of attempted murder relating to Michelle Pearson, Kyle Pearson and Bobby Harris.

Jurors may also consider manslaughter verdicts.

During the trial, the jury of five women and seven men has heard the firebombing was the culmination of a series of tit-for-tat attacks between Bolland and Kyle Pearson, involving breaking windows, abusive graffiti and wheelie bins set alight.

Bolland, of Blackleach Drive, Walkden, has admitted throwing the second petrol bomb but denies he intended to harm anyone and told the jury he believed the house was unoccupied at the time.

Court sketch of Zak Bolland, Courtney Brierley and David Worrall.

Worrall, of Coronation Street, Swinton, Salford, denies throwing any petrol bombs and though he knew children were inside, he believed they had gone to set a wheelie bin alight, he said.

Brierley, of Worsley Avenue, Walkden, also told the jury she had no idea a house was to be firebombed and denied encouraging her "controlling" boyfriend.

The prosecution allege all three were in it together and each have tried to minimise or shift blame, but all are guilty of murder.

Trial judge Mr Justice William Davis told the jury: "I think I said at the start, this was a case that's bound to raise emotions and plainly has done.

"Of course you will have at the back of your mind the result of all this, but your assessment of the evidence must be dispassionate."

Around 20 members of the Pearson family are attending court, sat in the public gallery.

PA

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