Fireman tells of hunt for children

News Shopper: Six children died in last May's blaze at the property in Derby Six children died in last May's blaze at the property in Derby

A firefighter has described to a court the harrowing moment he found "casualties everywhere" as he stormed into a burning house to search for children.

Michael Patterson, from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, was part of a crew who fought through flames looking for six youngsters trapped inside the semi-detached house in Victory Road, Derby.

Mr Patterson told Nottingham Crown Court - where the children's parents, Mick and Mairead Philpott, and a third defendant, Paul Mosley, are on trial for manslaughter - the fire had created such thick black smoke he had to try to locate the children by touch and not sight.

Referring to a statement Mr Patterson made shortly after the fire on May 11 last year, Prosecutor Richard Latham QC asked him: "Did you become aware at this point that, as you put it, there seemed to be casualties everywhere upstairs?" Mr Patterson replied: "Yes, that's correct."

Six siblings - Jade, 10, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, Jayden, five, and Duwayne, 13 - all died after the fire which engulfed the family home in Allenton in the early hours.

Philpott, 56, his 31-year-old wife and Mosley, 46, deny all six counts of manslaughter over the children's deaths. It is alleged they started the fire in a botched plan to frame Philpott's former mistress Lisa Willis, with whom he was locked in a custody battle over their children.

Mr Patterson said he and a colleague fought back flames with water before making their way upstairs in the three-bed house after being told the children were still inside.

The fire was raging downstairs, it had burnt through the plastic front door of the property, and an open window at the top of the stairs had created a "chimney effect" and filled the entirety of the upper level with acrid smoke, the court heard.

Mr Patterson and a second firefighter, Steve Fell, using breathing apparatus, went into a first bedroom where they found one of the children. Mr Fell bent over a bed and picked up the child before handing the casualty to Mr Patterson.

Mr Latham asked him: "Was it obviously a child, rather than an adult?" Mr Patterson replied: "It was obviously a child." He said he cradled the youngster in his arms and his way out of the house. He laid the child down on the pavement, where a paramedic came over, before going back inside the house.

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