Mum of four kids murdered in house fire ‘may not be fully aware they have died’

The "very, very poorly" mum of four children murdered in a house fire may not be fully aware her kids have died.

Zak Bolland, 23, David Worrall, 26, and Courtney Brierley, 20, were today found guilty of killing the young siblings after they petrol-bombed the family home in December last year.

Michelle Pearson, 35, was critically injured in the blaze in Salford, Greater Manchester while her children Demi Pearson, 14, Brandon, eight, Lacie, seven, and Lia, three, all died.

Last month, police confirmed Michelle was awake and had been told the devastating news after spending four months in a coma.

But today, as Bolland and Worrall were found guilty of murder at Manchester Crown Court, the judge was told: "It’s questionable how much she’s [Michelle’s] absorbed and is aware of what she’s been told."

Prosecutor Paul Reid QC said Michelle, who has "dreadful burns", is able at times to get out of bed, although one of her eyes had been stitched shut because of her injuries.

He said she had suffered a number of infections in the past and was suffering from one at the moment.

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

"She is very, very poorly."

Bolland and Worrall were today found guilty of murdering Demi, Brandon, Lacie and Lia.

Courtney Brierley was found guilty of manslaughter.

Members of the Pearson family gasped in the public gallery as the foreman of the jury read out the verdicts this afternoon.

A court had heard the four children suffered cardiac arrests and died as a result of a combination of smoke inhalation and burns.

Their mum Michelle, her son, Kyle Pearson, 17, and his pal, Bobby Harris, all survived the fire.

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court retired to consider their verdicts on Bolland, his girlfriend Brierley, and Worrall on Monday afternoon.

Trial judge Mr Justice William Davis had told them: "I think I said at the start, this was a case that’s bound to raise emotions and plainly has done.

"Of course you will have at the back of your mind the result of all this, but your assessment of the evidence must be dispassionate."

As well as four counts of murder, Bolland was convicted of three counts of attempted murder, the Manchester Evening News reports.

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

He was found guilty of three alternative counts of attempting to cause GBH with intent.

Brierley was found not guilty of murdering the four children but found guilty of the alternative of manslaughter in each case.

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

During the trial, jurors heard how Bolland launched the fatal attack at the mid-terrace 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 in Walkden.

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 three-bedroom 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.

The children’s mum screamed, "Not the kids! Not my kids!" before being overcome from the smoke, heat and flames.

She 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, Paul Reid QC, prosecuting, 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 was unable to, the Manchester Evening News reported.

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 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, 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.

But the prosecution alleged all three defendants were in it together.

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