Manchester

Two men jailed for Salford house fire murders

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Media captionThe attack on the family's house in Salford was captured on CCTV

Two men who murdered four children by torching their home with petrol bombs have been given life sentences.

Zak Bolland, 23, and David Worrall, 26, were convicted of murdering Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson in Walkden, Salford in December.

Courtney Brierley, 20, was cleared of their murders but found guilty of four counts of manslaughter following the blaze.

Bolland was jailed for a minimum of 40 years and Worrall for 37 years.

A judge at Manchester Crown Court also sentenced Brierley to 21 years in a young offenders institution.

Mr Justice William Davis said the four children "died a terrible death".

Sandra Lever, the children's grandmother, said the offenders were "evil".

"To think and do anything like this with four babies in the house, and a woman, and two other children, it's just beyond me."

Image copyright Police handout
Image caption Lia, Demi, Brandon and Lacie died in the fire and their mother Michelle Pearson was left in a coma

The jury heard Bolland, who lived 300 yards from the Pearsons, was high on drink and drugs when he launched the fatal attack, which was motivated by a petty feud with the victims' 17-year-old brother Kyle Pearson.

Along with Worrall, he filled two glass bottles with £1.50 of petrol bought from a local garage, stuffing the tops with tissue paper as they prepared the attack shortly before 05:00 GMT.

They removed a fence panel from the garden of the family's home in Jackson Street, smashed a kitchen window and threw in the two lit petrol bombs.

One landed 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.

Image copyright GMP
Image caption Zak Bolland (left) and David Worrall were found guilty of the murders of four siblings

Demi, 15, Brandon, eight, and Lacie, seven, all died in the blaze.

Their mother, Michelle Pearson, 36, was rescued, severely injured, along with her youngest daughter, Lia, aged three, who died in hospital two days later.

Neighbour Karen Kormoss told the jury during the murder trial Mrs Pearson screamed "not the kids" as the flames took hold.

She said she saw the windows blown out and flames coming from upstairs and downstairs within two minutes.

Image copyright GMFRS
Image caption Bolland and Worrall threw two lit petrol bombs at the family's home

Mrs Pearson dialled 999 but she was overcome with heat and smoke before completing the call.

She spent four months in a coma and still suffers with dreadful burns and has had several infections.

She has been told about the deaths of her children but "it's questionable how much she's absorbed and is aware of what she's been told", the court heard.

Bolland was found guilty of three counts of the attempted murder of Mrs Pearson, Kyle, and his friend Bobby Harris who was staying at their house.

Worrall, of no fixed address, was found guilty of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.

Image copyright GMP
Image caption Bolland's then-girlfriend Courtney Brierley was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter

Worrall and Brierley broke down in tears as the verdicts were read out in court. Bolland blinked and looked down to the floor.

The court heard Bolland was friends with Kyle until the defendant's car was set on fire and his house windows smashed and he blamed the teenager.

Mrs Pearson had called police on at least five occasions in the two weeks before her children died, saying Bolland was threatening to use fire to harm her family.

He set their wheelie bin on fire two days before the fatal fire and threatened to "kill 'em all" four hours before he torched the house, the court heard.

CCTV shown to the jury showed Bolland and Worrall at the address at 04:55 for one minute and five seconds. The cameras recorded a flash then a larger second one from the petrol bombs, before they fled.

Bolland, who admitted throwing the second petrol bomb but denied all other charges said he intended only to damage the house which he thought was not occupied.

"I heard like a big whoosh. I didn't look back," he told the jury.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Zak Bolland lived 300 yards from the Pearsons

Worrall, who pleaded not guilty to all charges, said he thought they were only going to set fire to wheelie bins and denied throwing a petrol bomb.

Brierley, from Walkden, said she did not know the two men had petrol bombs and claims Bolland had a "controlling influence" over her during their "toxic" relationship.

Det Ch Insp Lewis Hughes said it was one of the "most heartbreaking cases" he had ever dealt with.

"I am glad that the sentences these three have received today reflect their atrocious acts, but nothing can change what has happened and nothing can bring back the children," he said.

An investigation into Greater Manchester Police by the Independent Office for Police Conduct was suspended pending the outcome of the trial.

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