Two people were last night being questioned on suspicion of murder in connection with the deaths of five siblings in a house fire in Britain.
A 38-year-old man from Derby was arrested yesterday afternoon by detectives investigating the deaths of Jade Philpott, 10, John, nine, Jack, seven, Jessie, six, and Jayden, five.
Earlier yesterday, Derbyshire Police said a 28-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of murder. She remains in police custody for questioning.
The children died after a fire broke out at their home in Allenton, Derby, in the early hours. Their 13-year-old brother, Duwayne, who was also in the semi-detached property at the time of the blaze, remains in a critical condition in hospital in Birmingham.
The children’s father has been named locally as Mick Philpott, who was dubbed “Shameless Mick’ in 2007 for his benefit claims and refusal to get a job in a documentary by former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe.
Philpott, said to be the father of 17 children, hit the headlines after demanding a larger house to share with his wife, girlfriend and eight offspring. Philpott and Duwayne’s mother are believed to be at the teenager’s bedside in hospital.
Post-mortem examinations will be carried out over the weekend and forensic specialists are examining the house.
Widdecombe, who spent a week living with the then 57-year-old Philpott for the programme, Ann Widdecombe Versus The Benefit Culture, said following the tragedy: “Nobody would ever call him a bad father. I’m so sorry to hear the news and my thoughts are with the family.”
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill, from Derbyshire Police, said: “There appears to have been valiant attempts by the father to rescue his children.”
He said two adults in the pebble-dashed home in Victory Road, whom he did not name, escaped the fire without serious injury after being alerted by a smoke detector.
Cotterill, who said police were keeping an open mind about the cause of the fire, said: ““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.”
Earlier yesterday, he said it was “potentially” a murder inquiry, and the woman being questioned by police was not arrested at the scene.
The six children were asleep in their beds when the fire broke out, and the two adults, including Philpott, were downstairs.
He 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.
Daniel Walsh, who said he had been a friend of Philpott for many years, called the fire “shocking”.
“It’s absolutely tragic. Any parent’s worst nightmare,” said Walsh.
“He had many children, as everybody knows, and he loved them all the same, no doubt. It’s just a tragic loss.”
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