Men who petrol-bombed Salford home killing four kids found guilty of murder

Two men who petrol-bombed a family home in the dead of night killing four sleeping children have been found guilty of their murders.

Zak Bolland, 23, David Worrall, 26, and Courtney Brierley, 20, had been on trial accused of killing the young siblings just a fortnight before Christmas.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, eight, and their sisters Lacie, seven, and Lia, three, died after two lit petrol bombs were tossed inside their home.

A court heard the children suffered cardiac arrests and died as a result of a combination of smoke inhalation and burns following the blaze last December.

Scroll down for timeline of events leading up to deadly fire

Their mum, Michelle Pearson, screamed "Not the kids! Not my kids!" before being overcome by the smoke, heat and flames that had filled the house.

Today, Bolland and Worrall were found guilty of murdering the four siblings – as police released footage of the pair fleeing from the scene of the attack.

Brierley wept in the dock as she was found not guilty of murdering the kids in the Greater Manchester fire, but convicted of manslaughter in each case.

Members of the Pearson family gasped and hissed "Yes" in the public gallery as the verdicts were delivered at Manchester Crown Court this afternoon.

Many were wearing T-shirts featuring pictures of the four kids.

Michelle, 36, her son Kyle Pearson, 17, and his pal, Bobby Harris, all survived the fire at the three-bedroom mid-terrace home in Walkden, Salford.

Bolland, his girlfriend Brierley and dad-of-one Worrall had each denied four counts of murder, as well as three counts of attempted murder relating to Michelle and the two boys.

Bolland had admitted reckless arson, a charge denied by the others.

Jurors had retired to consider their verdicts on Monday.

Today, Paul Reid QC, prosecuting, gave the court an update on Michelle, who was severely injured in the fire and is now suffering from an infection in hospital.

The QC said the mum was able at times to get out of bed, although one of her eyes had been stitched shut because of her injuries.

He revealed that she had suffered from a number of infections in the past, and that she had one at the moment.

“The prognosis is if she were to suffer another infection… there’s a real risk that she may not survive,” said Mr Reid.

Trial judge Mr Justice William Davis mentioned news reports saying that Michelle had been told her children had died.

Responding to the judge’s words, Mr Reid explained there was a question as to whether she had absorbed the information.

As well as four counts of murder, callous Bolland was convicted of three counts of attempted murder by jurors.

Worrall was convicted of murdering Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia, but found not guilty of three counts of attempted murder.

Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia: The four ‘angels’

Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia all perished after two lit petrol bombs were tossed inside their home just weeks before Christmas.

The children, who had been asleep, suffered cardiac arrests and died as a result of a combination of smoke inhalation and burns.

Their relatives have been left heartbroken by their deaths, while their mum remains in hospital more than five months later.

Demi had undergone battles with ill-health during her short life, but was a selfless "star", the MEN reports. The teenager always helped her mother Michelle out with her younger siblings.

Little Brandon, meanwhile, was clever, old beyond his years and "was going to be the next Stephen Hawking", his relatives say.

His younger sister, Lacie, was a "little diva" and always dancing.

The youngest of the siblings, "so cute" Lia, adored Peppa Pig.

She liked the TV show so much everyone was named Pig in the Pearson house: Mummy Pig, Demi Pig, Brandon Pig and Lacie Pig.

She called herself Lia Pig.

He was convicted of three alternative counts of attempting to cause GBH with intent, the Manchester Evening News reports.

He and Bolland are now facing life sentences for their crimes.

Brierley – who was accused of encouraging the attack – was found not guilty of murdering the four children, but convicted of the alternative of manslaughter in each case.

She was found not guilty of three counts of attempted murder.

Following the verdicts, Greater Manchester Police released horrific pictures of the aftermath of the petrol bomb attack, showing the house’s badly-burnt interior.

In one harrowing photo, a charred tub can be seen in the Pearson family’s bathroom, surrounded by a burnt sink and bits of debris.

In another, blackened stuffing droops through the structure of a ceiling after flames engulfed the property.

The force also released CCTV of Bolland and Worrall filling up a petrol can at a Texaco station ahead of the murders – as well as footage of the killers later fleeing from the scene of the blaze.

During the trial, jurors had heard how Bolland launched the fatal attack at the home after being involved in a petty feud with Kyle.

He lit toilet paper stuffed in the neck of a vodka bottle full of petrol before launching it through a kitchen window, the court was told.

The defendant, along with Worrall, was said to have removed a fence panel from the garden of the property on Jackson Street.

The kitchen window was then smashed and two lit petrol bombs were tossed inside at around 5am on December 11, 2017.

The second bomb "exploded" near the stairs, the court was told.

This blocked the only exit to the ground floor and trapped the victims upstairs as flames engulfed the house.

Bolland and Worrall had taken cocaine and alcohol when they petrol-bombed the home as the children slept, the court heard.

Demi, Brandon and Lacie, who had been sleeping in a front bedroom, all perished in the blaze.

Brandon was found near the door, lying face down, as though he was trying to crawl out of the room, jurors heard.

Lacie was discovered behind him, firefighter Janine Chadwick told the court, after describing how she entered the flame-filled bedroom.

“She was right behind where he (her brother) was,” Ms Chadwick said.

Demi, meanwhile, was found on a lower bunk bed, with her hands stretched out towards the open window, the jury heard.

Mum Michelle was rescued, severely injured, along with youngest daughter Lia, who passed away in hospital two days after the blaze.

Kyle, who had been feuding with Bolland, managed to escape along with Bobby, who was staying at the house when it was torched.

The court heard how the pair climbed out of a bedroom window and on to a canopy over the front door, where Kyle noticed torchlight.

The teenager believed the light was coming from his sister Demi’s phone in the adjoining bedroom where she was sleeping, the jury was told.

At an earlier hearing, Mr Reid told the court: "She [Demi] came to the bedroom window with her phone light on.

"She coughed three times in the thick smoke and then appeared to fall away from the window. She, Brandon and Lacie died in their bedroom."

After seeing the torchlight, Kyle and Bobby jumped to the ground, where Kyle’s ‘immediate thought’ was to try to save the rest of his family.

The court heard he borrowed a hammer and starting smashing the living room window before a neighbour took him to their house.

Mr Reid said the teenager also tried to force open the property’s front door but couldn’t.

The jury of five women and seven men had been told during the trial how the firebombing was the culmination of a series of tit-for-tat attacks between Bolland and Kyle.

These involved breaking windows, abusive graffiti and wheelie bins set alight, it was said.

Bolland, of Walkden, had admitted throwing the second petrol bomb, but denied he intended to harm anyone and told the jury he believed the house was unoccupied at the time.

He gave evidence in his own defence from the witness box last week, denying telling the jury a "pack of lies" to save himself.

Mr Reid asked the defendant: "However much cocaine and alcohol you had, you knew what you were doing.

"So what were you thinking was going to happen?"

Bolland replied: "Just going to set fire and that’s it."

Mr Reid continued: "And four children die and that’s it?

"Set fire to this house when you knew it was likely a three-year-old child was asleep in there?

"It is obvious, anyone in there would be very lucky to survive."

The defendant replied: "Yes, they would have to be lucky to survive."

At this point, Mr Justice Davis interjected: "Just what kind of luck would they need?".

"I don’t know," Bolland replied.

Worrall, of Swinton, Salford, was arrested, "shaking profusely", the day after the fire, as he stepped out of the shower at his mother’s house.

He had denied throwing any petrol bombs.

He claimed that though he knew children were inside, he believed they had gone to set a wheelie bin alight.

Brierley, of Walkden, also told the jury she had no idea a house was to be firebombed and denied encouraging her "controlling" boyfriend.

She told a court of her "toxic" relationship with Bolland, claiming he would hit and drag her by the hair, cut her off from family and friends and banned her from using social media.

She said she "loved" Bolland when they first got together a year ago, but the relationship changed, telling jurors: "It was toxic, horrible."

She said Bolland made her delete all her social media profiles and cut her off from her family, because her mum "hated and despised" him.

She also claimed the defendant had strangled her and given her a black eye through punching her in the head but she forgave him, "many times".

Brierley maintained her boyfriend had a "controlling influence" over her but was not aware of any plan to fire-bomb the Pearsons’ home.

However, the prosecution alleged all three defendants were in it together.

Bolland, Worrall and Brierley will be sentenced this afternoon.

Tit-for-tat attacks: The weeks leading up to the blaze

In the weeks leading up to the fire, there had been a series of tit-for-tat attacks amid a "petty" feud between Bolland and Kyle.

Here are the key events, heard by the court:

November 25

Bolland’s Peugeot car is set on fire. He claims his house on Blackleach Drive, Walkden was also targeted with petrol, but he put out the flames and blames Kyle.

He demands money for the damage, texting mum Michelle: "Fire letter box I want my £500."

November 26

At around 9am, Bolland uses a hammer to smash the front windows and panes of glass in the front door of Michelle’s home in Jackson Street, and she calls police.

Later that day Kyle, Bobby and two others – all armed with clubs and hammers – smash windows at Bolland’s mother’s home. Bolland, Brierley and his brothers clash with the Pearsons in the street.

Police attend Michelle’s home in the evening after Bolland sends a text to Kyle threatening to petrol bomb the house.

November 28

The fire service attends to fit a letter box cover to the property to prevent accelerants being poured inside and set alight.

December 1

Bolland and Brierley go to the Pearson house, taunting Michelle that Bolland had been "NFA’d" – escaped police action for breaking her windows and he makes further threats. She calls the police, gives a statement and asks for a restraining order against Bolland.

December 9

Shortly before 6am, Michelle’s wheelie bin is set on fire and "Grass" is spray painted on her house.

Police attend and she names Bolland as the likely culprit.

December 10

Bolland and Brierley are joined by Worrall and others in the evening, buying two cases of Budweiser from a local shop at 10.27pm.

December 11

At 12.40am Bolland, Worrall and two others go to Jackson Street "kicking off", bashing the door and Worrall threatening to "Kill ’em all" before returning to Bolland’s house.

Police attend and take statement from Michelle, who wants Bolland arrested, before the officers leave 90 minutes later.

At 3:30am, Bolland, Brierley and Worrall buy a case of Stella lager and a bottle of wine from a local garage and return home to Bolland’s house.

At 4.33am, Bolland and Worrall pay £1.50 for 1.23 litres of unleaded petrol from a local garage, put in a green petrol can.

At 4.54am, Bolland and Worral lift a garden fence panel at the back of the property. Seconds later the flares of two petrol bombs are caught on a local CCTV camera.

At 5.04am, the first of three fire engines arrive and enter the house, which is already well ablaze, to rescue the occupants.

At 5.47am, Brandon is declared dead in hospital.

At 6.02am, Lacie is pronounced dead in hospital.

At 7.10am, Demi is declared dead at the scene.

At 5.56pm, Bolland and Brierley are arrested by police.

December 12

Worrall is arrested.

December 13

Lia’s life support is turned off at 2.30pm.

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