Derby fire deaths: Man and woman being questioned

Mick Philpott Mick Philpott made "valiant attempts" to save the children

A 38-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering five children who died in a house fire in Derby.

The children, four boys and one girl aged between five and 10, were asleep upstairs when the fire began.

Their father, who was downstairs in the house in Victory Road, Allenton, made "valiant attempts" to save them.

A woman, 28, arrested elsewhere in the city earlier on Friday is still in police custody. She and the man, from Derby, are being questioned by police.

The children have been identified by police as 10-year-old Jade Philpott, John Philpott, nine, Jack Philpott, seven, Jessie Philpott, six, and Jayden Philpott, five.

Duwayne Philpott, aged 13, is being treated in hospital. The children's father, who is believed to have 17 children, was named locally as Mick Philpott.

Post-mortem tests are due to take place over the weekend.

Derbyshire Police said 13-year-old Duwayne remained in a critical condition with his parents by his bedside.

Two adults who suffered minor injuries and were treated at Royal Derby Hospital have not been formally identified.

Burnt house on Victory Road Neighbour Joe Peel said he saw the house's front door on fire

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Derbyshire Police Steve Cotterill said: "There appears to have been some valiant attempts by the father to resuscitate his children.

"The parents were asleep downstairs when the fire started," he added.

Gavin Tomlinson, area manager for Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, said the parents had managed to get out of the house and were trying to get the children out when fire crews arrived.

"When we arrived, we had a rapidly developing fire on the ground floor of the property and the first floor was very heavily smoke-logged," he said.

'Traumatic' time

"We believe it started on the ground floor but we haven't determined that at this moment in time.

"This is frustrating, traumatic and tragic for the family, for the residents and communities and for the firefighters as well who attended and dealt with it," he added.

At the scene

Warning tape barriers and grim-faced police tell the story of the tragedy. Helicopters circle above while parents hurry their children past.

On the ground, it's quiet. The street of semi-detached houses feels shocked. Neighbours step outside and then disappear back inside.

"Five children," says nearby resident Edwin Billing. "That is tough news to hear."

There's soot on the front of the house and two open windows. It doesn't seem enough to account for the deaths of five children.

Mr Philpott and his family were the subject of media scrutiny in 2006 when he asked the council for a larger house to accommodate his wife, girlfriend and 14 children.

In 2007, former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe spent a week living with the family as part of an ITV documentary and he also appeared as a guest on the same channel's Jeremy Kyle Show.

All five of the children who died went to St George's Catholic Primary School in Littleover.

In a statement, the school said: "We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and community at this sad time."

Neighbour Joe Peel said he was asleep when he was woken by his dog in the early hours.

He said: "I got up, I looked outside and it looked really foggy. I looked down the road and across the road one of the house's doors was just covered in flames.

"I grabbed my phone and started getting dressed as I was on the phone to the fire brigade. I ran out of the house, screaming to the neighbour to wake him up.

"I heard his voice, I couldn't hear anything else and I couldn't get in because it was just flames and smoke. A couple of minutes later the fire brigade came down with the police.

"Two or three minutes later you could see the flames going up the stairs through the side window of the house. When the fire brigade came it was billowing smoke going up the road - it was absolutely horrible".

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill said police were keeping an open mind

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

He said: "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."

Mr Cotterill said: "This is going to be a very lengthy and detailed investigation. We are keeping an open mind."

Anyone with information about the fire has been asked to contact Derbyshire Police.

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