In May 2012 a fire killed six of his children (one of whom he had not fathered) at his home in Allenton, Derby. In April 2013, following an eight-week trial, he and his wife Mairead, together with their friend Paul Mosley, were found guilty of their manslaughter. He was given a life sentence with a minimum of term of 15 years' imprisonment. Psychologist Glenn Wilson described Philpott as clinically a "psychopath" and "exhibitionist" with "antisocial personality disorder."
Philpott's attitude to women has been described as "controlling", "domineering", "violent" and "manipulative".
In July 1978, aged 21, while AWOL from the army, he attempted to murder his girlfriend, Kim Hill, with whom he had had a two-year relationship, beginning when she was 15 years old. Philpott had previously shot Hill in the groin with a crossbow because he felt her dress had been too short, and had cracked her kneecap with a hammer when she paid too much attention to a baby she had been minding. Philpott attempted to kill Hill because she sent him a letter saying she was leaving him, stabbing her over a dozen times as she was lying in bed.
He stabbed her mother when she came to her daughter's aid. Hill suffered collapsed lungs, and a punctured bladder, kidney and liver. Philpott was convicted of attempted murder of Hill, and grievous bodily harm with intent against her mother, and was sentenced to seven years in prison in December 1978. Philpott was released after three years and two months.
Philpott married Pamela Lomax in 1986. He had three children with Lomax, two sons and a daughter. Lomax said that Philpott was controlling, and she prayed he would move on to someone else. Her wish was fulfilled when Philpott met Heather Kehoe, then aged 14, in Rainworth, Nottinghamshire. Philpott was 37. On her 16th birthday, Kehoe ran away from her parents to live with Philpott. She gave birth to two children, both boys, in quick succession, but Philpott wanted a daughter, and beat Kehoe for this reason. She described Philpott teaching his older sons to be violent with her. Philpott wanted Kehoe to produce more children, but she did not conceive again.
In 1991, Philpott was given a two-year conditional discharge for assault occasioning actual bodily harm for headbutting a colleague. In 2000, Philpott met Mairead Duffy, a 19-year-old single mother born in England to an Irish family, who had left a previous volatile relationship. She moved into Philpott's house shortly after, and the couple married in May 2003.
In 2001, Philpott met Lisa Willis, a 16-year-old orphan and single mother. Willis was Philpott's mistress. Philpott invited Willis to move into his council house, which was larger than hers, in 2002. Lisa Willis was bridesmaid at the wedding of Mick and Mairead. On 23 December 2002, having left Philpott, Kehoe gained legal custody of her two children.
Philpott was heavily criticised in the tabloid media in 2006 when he requested a larger council house to house his family, which then consisted of his wife Mairead Philpott, then aged 25, his mistress Lisa Willis, then 22, and four children born to Mrs. Philpott, three to Lisa Willis, and Lisa Willis's child fathered prior to meeting him. The 1978 conviction for attempted murder was revealed at this time.
After Willis gave birth to her fourth child by Philpott in 2006, the press revealed that both she and Mairead Philpott were expecting babies, due in March 2007. Before their birth, Philpott appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show in 2007 to defend his lifestyle, saying that he would like to marry one woman and divorce the other, and added that he would have a vasectomy.
He appeared in a documentary, Ann Widdecombe Versus the Benefits Culture (2007), in which the former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe spent a week with him and tried to get him to change his lifestyle. Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian reported that she gave him "a large slice of her mind", but "decamped" rather than sleep in his caravan. Widdecombe found Philpott three jobs, one of which was with a barrel-making firm, but he did not turn up for work on the first day and the job fell through. In the documentary, Philpott was shown to be living in a caravan in his garden, in which his wife and mistress would alternate in spending nights with him. Widdecombe said that Philpott did not care about anyone and that he called both his wife and mistress "bitch". Widdecombe said she noticed that none of the children sought affection from him.
It was revealed during his manslaughter trial that Mairead became pregnant by another man whilst the couple were dogging, an activity in which they began to participate during 2011. Philpott instructed Mairead to have an abortion, which she did. In 2010 he was given a police caution for slapping his wife and dragging her outside by her hair.
A court hearing a week before the fire concerned a road rage incident during November 2011 in which he had punched another driver, for which Philpott had pleaded guilty to common assault, but denied dangerous driving. At the hearing Philpott was bailed and was awaiting trial.
Philpott and Lisa Willis became estranged in February 2012, and she left to live with her sister and brother-in-law, along with her four children by Philpott and her son by a different father.
On 11 May 2012, the family's home at 18 Victory Road, Allenton, Derby, was seriously damaged by fire at around 4am. Five children—Jade (10), John (9), Jack (7), Jesse (6) and Jayden (5) Philpott, who had been asleep upstairs—all died at the scene, while their half-brother, Duwayne Philpott (13), died in hospital two days later. All of these deaths were caused by excessive smoke inhalation.
In the days following the fire, the family's local Catholic church held memorial services. On 16 May, Philpott and his wife held an emotional news conference, in which they purported to describe the events concerning the fire.
A charity, Catch Me When I Fall, was set up by local residents to help the family of the children. A book of condolence at Derby Cathedral was later signed by hundreds of people. A fund to pay for the funerals raised over £11,000 by members of the public living in the same area as the Philpotts. The children's joint funeral took place on 22 June 2012 at St Mary's Church, Derby.
On 14 May, police stated that petrol had been found inside the letterbox, thus sparking a murder investigation.
Lisa Willis, Philpott's live-in mistress, had left the family home with her four children a few months before the fire, and a custody hearing for these children was scheduled to take place on the morning of the fire. Willis and her brother-in-law Ian Cousins were initially arrested on suspicion of murder, but were released without charge. Philpott behaved erratically for someone who had recently lost several of his children, according to witnesses, and appeared to like the attention. The police bugged the Philpotts' hotel room, gaining evidence confirming the couple were responsible for the fire, including the involvement of Paul Mosley, with whom Mairead Philpott was heard engaging in sexual intercourse.
Philpott and his wife were arrested on suspicion of murder on 28 May 2012. After seeking additional time for questioning, the couple were charged with murder on 30 May 2012. A discarded petrol container and glove had been found near the house, and in November the forensic investigators discovered that the clothes of the Philpotts and Mosley had petrol on them.
On 5 November 2012, a 49-year-old man and a 45-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of murder. Later that day, the 45-year-old man, Paul Mosley, was charged with murder. The other man was released without charge. Mosley appeared in court the following day. In December 2012 his charge was downgraded to manslaughter. Paul Mosley had previously been arrested in the enquiry and was released on bail in June 2012. He was re-arrested and charged when petrol was found on his clothing following further forensic examination. In December 2012 the charges were reduced to manslaughter, as it was decided that Philpott and his wife had not intended to kill their children. They had however wanted to frame Willis for the fire and win back custody of the children and continue to claim benefits for them.
The trial commenced at Nottingham Crown Court on 12 February 2013. Richard Latham QC led the prosecution on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service. Anthony Orchard QC led the defence for Mick Philpott, Sean Smith QC led the defence for Mairead Philpott, and Benjamin Nolan QC led the defence for Mosley. On 2 April, Mick and Mairead, along with Paul Mosley, were each found guilty of the manslaughter of the six children.
Sentencing was due to take place on 3 April, but was postponed as the judge, Mrs Justice Thirlwall, wanted more time to consider the sentence. Philpott's previous criminal convictions, which had not been revealed to the jury, were disclosed at this point. On 4 April, Philpott was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of 15 years, and his wife and Mosley were each sentenced to 17 years (of which they will serve at least half before any release on licence).
On 29 November 2013 an appeal by Mairead Philpott against the length of her sentence (not the actual verdict) was heard. The grounds of the appeal were mainly that Mairead was under the control of her husband and could not exercise a free choice in her conduct; the appeal was dismissed.