Community spirit remains strong and reflective a year later in the wake of the Derby house fire

By | News & Politics
Tributes to the six children killed in the Derby House Fire. ©GhanaNation

The events of 11th May 2012 devastated the nation, as a house fire tragically took the lives of six children in a blaze that was instigated by their father, Mick Philpott, in a callous and sickening attempt to frame his mistress for arson. Mick Philpott was found guilty of six counts of manslaughter and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 15 years. Philpott’s wife Mairead and friend Paul Moseley were both sentenced to 17 years in prison, and will only be eligible for release after serving half of their sentences. The scene of devastation is a memory that will forever remain with the heroic firefighters, neighbours and civilians who fought to save the lives of Jade, 10, John, 9, Jack, 7, Jessie, 6, Jayden, 5 and Dwayne, 13.

The remarkable bravery of the residents of Victory Road embodies the community spirit that battled and fought in the early hours of the morning to save the children. Black smoke engulfed the house immediately, enhanced by the staircase varnishing. Upon receiving a 999 call, firefighters reached the scene in less than four minutes, in which they continuously attempted to extinguish the blaze and rescue the children trapped inside. Sean Frame of Derby Fire & Rescue recounted how fire crews ‘worked with paramedics to try and resuscitate’ the six casualties. Fellow fire fighter Michael Patterson spoke of the thickness of the smoke engulfing the house, as touch was used to locate the children. Derby Fire & Rescue operated in teams of four instead of two and established breathing apparatus crews in their attempts to save lives.

It seems that community spirit does not stop at the services of the fire brigade. Neighbour Daniel Stevenson has described how he awoke in the early hours and called the fire brigade, climbing over the caravan onto the conservatory roof, knowing he had an ‘instinct’ to help. Neighbour Jamie Butler ignored the wishes of the police to leave the premises, in his desperate attempt to free the children.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, Bobby Sutherland, a resident on the Derby estate, established the ‘Catch Me When I Fall’ donation scheme, in which ten thousand pounds was raised by the community of Derby towards the funerals of the beloved children. It has also been recently announced that scene of devastation is to be demolished in order to preserve the memory of the victims.

The heart-breaking events that occurred last year have certainly left many questions unanswered that need to be resolved to prevent future similar happenings. After Mick Philpott’s mistress left him, Mick attempted suicide. Mairead Philpott then also attempted to take her life weeks after, yet it appears the children’s schools were not alerted or informed of any possibility of dangers at home. This pushes for a review of the role of the social services in this horrific fire. Chancellor George Osborne has been slammed for his open condemnation of the welfare state that allowed ‘shameless Mick’ Philpott over £8000 a year for his children; perhaps a review of the benefit system as a whole is necessary.

The prison sentences of Mick Philpott, Mairead Philpott and Paul Moseley will never serve to heal the pain felt throughout the country in this dreadful incident. It will, however, ensure that Philpott is kept off the streets. Philpott was notoriously abusive and controlling towards women, and used his conviction in 1978 for the attempted murder of an ex girlfriend to threaten women. The removal of Philpott and his accomplices from the public is one that could not come any sooner to protect safety.

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