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Mick Philpott: Don't Tar Derby's Working Class Because Of His Crimes

by John Atkin
4 April 2013 11 Comments

Mick and his accomplices are despicable, but their community is a world away from the Daily Mail's skewed picture...

As soon as news started to break of a large house fire in Victory Road, Derby, it was only ever likely to be at one address. The street had become synonymous with ‘Shameless’ Mick Philpott ever since stories in the local press, highlighting his call for a larger council house to accommodate his brood, had been seized upon gleefully by everyone from the broadsheets to Jeremy Kyle. Philpott was journalistic gold dust whichever bit of the market you were in; the loudmouth baby machine, an unrepentant shirker, sharing alternate nights with two women. All a bit of good clean fun, wasn’t it? Even the family dog was pregnant! The dark side of the story remained undisturbed – there was no need to go digging into this one, everything you needed for a red-top splash was there on a plate.

On one night in May 2012, it all suddenly became a lot more serious. Six young lives burned up, killed by their own parents, their protectors, two people whose last words to those six children would have urged them to ‘sleep tight’.

The reality was that Mick Philpott was loathed by many long before he, wife Mairead and their sex-and-drugs buddy Paul Mosley hatched the disastrous dope-addled plan to set fire to the family house, rescue the kids, paint Mick as the hero and put his ex-mistress Lisa Willis squarely in the frame. It wasn’t long before the suspicions had set in. Within days, people in the community, and indeed the family, were pointing the finger with little doubt. Stories circulated … Philpott waving around a wedge of cash on a trip to a karaoke night at his local pub days after the fire; his drunken wife showing off new clothes and trainers; ever-more outlandish and expensive demands for how the funeral should be conducted. Even in the run-up to the fire, Philpott’s Facebook postings had betrayed a mind running wild, professing his love alternately for Mairead and Lisa, firing off threats and regrets, even brushing off excoriating criticism from one of his older children, for all to see.

Philpott was quick with his mouth, fast with his fists – not just in the marital home, but at work (yes, he did do some occasionally) and on the street. Not a big man physically, he nevertheless swaggers with a full belief in his own authority. His battered sofa was his throne – king of his castle, no doubt, but what Philpott was categorically not, was typical of the area in which he lived. And that was another reason why he was so widely unloved.

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It’s easy to pigeonhole areas like Victory Road. The sort of place where the full array of Christmas lights goes up on the front of houses in late October. Where, when a new baby’s born, they ring the tattooist before the midwife. That’s what the Daily Mail (proving it can be just as shameless) has done in its cruel, unthinking depiction of Philpott as a ‘product of the welfare state’.

But in reality, it’s the sort of place where community still means something. Look at the £15,000 that was raised quickly to help take care of funeral costs. Look at the neighbours who tried time and again to get into the burning property, as the Philpotts stood watching. Look at the enormous outpouring of emotion on the day those six little coffins were carried into church. And it’s that strength of community that will pull the suburb of Allenton, and the wider city, through. At least the six children – all of whom were genuinely loved by their schoolfriends and teachers – can have proper headstones now. Usually, those headstones and graves would be tended by a grieving parent. In the case of Jade and her brothers John, Jack, Jesse, Jayden and Duwayne, wider family, friends and the community will take on that role. Flowers and tributes will appear on the graves, their names will not be forgotten.

Mick Philpott lived among us in Derby, but he was not from us. His behaviour was not born out of the fact that he exploited the benefits system. He is no more a product of the welfare state than he is a product of the British Army (Philpott was a serving soldier when, aged 21, he went AWOL and tried to knife to death his then-girlfriend). Equally, it was not the media which created his God complex –the signs were there long before he sauntered into the headlines in his ubiquitous football shirt and trackies.There are many who will be anguishing over whether they could have done anything to prevent what happened. Family, friends and neighbours, anyone who came into contact with Mick and Mairead, will wonder. They should take consolation in the simple truth that no-one can predict the unstable actions of a sociopath. The only lesson the tragedy can teach us, as the people of Derby have come to appreciate even more deeply over the past 10 months, is to pull those we love more closely, take care of those around us, and strain every sinew to protect our children from the monsters under the bed.

John Atkin grew up in Derby and worked for almost 20 years as a local newspaper and radio journalist there.

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SagaxSenex 11:22 am, 4-Apr-2013

Much needed corrective to the more hysterical pronouncements of the daily press. Even the Graun (which more or less stuck to reporting the facts) didn't do a community piece like this. Thank you.

stephen 6:32 pm, 4-Apr-2013

Excellent stuff - well done!

Ian Hunter 8:38 pm, 4-Apr-2013

Good article John.

Justin Erswell 9:05 pm, 4-Apr-2013

Test

Wanchope and your Dickov 12:35 am, 5-Apr-2013

Good article, derby is a decent place.

Russ 3:50 am, 5-Apr-2013

and lo and behold the government are now using this as a political football. dont worry, the people of derby are by no means the only people being demonized and marginalised. how about someone mentioning that the lives lost were of what we have been told were wonderful children, raised mainly on benefits which the taxpayer gave - this even despite their father being a psycho.

underrepresented 4:24 pm, 5-Apr-2013

the tories are trying to bring down the ammount of money you can get for doing fuck all.i think this is a good thing. say there was a cap on child benefit of say, 6 kids,then maybe this could have been prevented. he didnt just kill his kids for fun, he did it for benefits. this is benefits culture gone absolutely crackers. just because it dosent fit in with your blinkered world view, we cant hide from the debate.

Fascetious 7:11 am, 6-Apr-2013

@underrpresented - i agree, the right to have children should be means tested. we could sterilise fathers who go beyond their means and are unwilling to support themselves.

MR 3:26 pm, 6-Apr-2013

also if u wanna debate about it. why is the government so keen to crack down on benefits in particular but wont talk about tax evasion. Compare what the two cost to us as a country. And also lets debate the ATOS stuff in which a private company, government backed are allowed to overrule doctors and cut disabled benefits. Which is turn leading to deaths. They used to get paid for doing nothing though maybe? All this on top if HOW they want to use the deaths if six kids to paint poor people as scroungers - six kids who apparently should never have been born.

ferret 11:23 pm, 17-Apr-2013

The bottom line is that the government are, but should not be, using the death of 6 innocent children for political gain. Philpott is one evil person who is not representative of the people who are struggling on benefits. Have some compassion

Joe 4:50 pm, 21-Apr-2013

There's a lot of scum in Derby. No, they aren't working class they're can't-be-bothered-to-work class and it needs sorting out. The number of foul-mouthed drugged up alcoholics in the city centre even in the middle of the daytime is disgusting.

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