Woman arrested after UK fire kills five children




A woman has been arrested after five children died in a housefire in England.

A sixth child has been taken to hospital for specialist treatment following the blaze in a semi-detached house in Allenton in Derby.

Derbyshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill revealed news of the arrest at a press conference but he stressed that detectives were keeping an open mind about the cause of the fire.

He said the arrested woman is in her 20s.

The children’s parents, neighbours and firefighters fought to rescue them from the first floor of the council house.

Mr Cotterill said the father had made a “valiant attempt” to save the youngsters, who were aged between five and 10.

All five children went to St George's Catholic Primary School in Littleover, Derby, a school spokeswoman said.

A statement from the school said: “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and community at this sad time. Whilst this is under police investigation, we are unable to make further comment.”

The father was named locally as Mick Philpott. Mr Philpott, said to be the father of 17 children, was in the headlines six years ago when he demanded a larger house to share with his wife, girlfriend and eight offspring.

He said his council house in Allenton was too cramped to accommodate the family and he wanted the city council to rehouse them.

The council said they already had the biggest available council property in the city.

'Crews worked very, very hard to save lives'

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Sean Frayne told the press conference of the attempts to save the children.

He said 30 firefighters were sent to the scene.

“When the first crew arrived on scene, they were faced with a fire at the front of the building. They quickly made their way past the fire to search the rest of the premises, having been told that persons were inside the house.

“The crews worked extremely hard in very difficult circumstances and very quickly located six casualties.

“They moved the six casualties to open air, where they worked with our colleagues in the ambulance service to try to resuscitate.

“Personnel at the scene then continued to work very, very hard to save the lives of the five fatalities.

“Unfortunately this has had a huge effect not only on the community but certainly within the fire and rescue service and other emergency services that were in attendance.”

Mr Cotterill refused to confirm the identities of the family, saying it would be inappropriate and insensitive to do so at this stage.

“Our thoughts are with the parents and the family of the children for their tragic loss and for the community of Allenton, who would of course have known the children as they played,” he said.

Police are continuing to work with the fire service to try to establish the cause of the blaze, Mr Cotterill said, and he was not prepared to speculate on what it was.

He asked people not to read too much into the arrest of the woman.

“It is a matter of a police inquiry, where we have had to act very quickly to preserve any evidence which may feature later in the inquiry.”

It was “potentially” a murder inquiry, he added.

“At the moment we are keeping a very, very open mind as to the cause of the fire.”

The woman who was arrested was being held “elsewhere in the city”, he said.

Mr Cotterill said eight people were living in the house on a permanent basis, though there might be other people who stayed there on an ad hoc basis.

The children had been asleep upstairs.

“There appear to have been valiant attempts by the father to rescue his children,” he said.

Daniel Walsh, who said he had been a friend of Mr Philpott for many years, visited the scene this morning to lay a bunch flowers.

He said the fire was “shocking”, adding: “It’s absolutely tragic. Any parent’s worst nightmare.

“I didn’t know his younger children. He had many children, as everybody knows, and he loved them all the same, no doubt. It’s just a tragic loss.”

A neighbour, who gave her name only as Kaye, said she saw flames coming out of the house and "loads of ambulances", and described it as a "horrible, horrible" scene.

“I just saw the babies going to the ambulance because it was parked outside our house,” she said.

“The children are friends with my kids. They played with my children. They were OK, good kids.”


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