Two arrested after five children die in British house fire

Posted at 05/12/12 7:58 AM

DERBY, United Kingdom - British police arrested two people on suspicion of murder after five children died in a house fire Friday in the central English city of Derby.

"Sadly I can now confirm that five children have died, and their ages range from five to 10 years," said Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill of Derbyshire Police.

Detectives are keeping an open mind about what caused the fire, he told a news conference.

A 28-year-old woman and a 38-year-old man were arrested separately on suspicion of murder.

Cotterill said two adults and a sixth child, aged 13, were being treated in hospital, after emergency services were called to the semi-detached house early Friday. The teenager remains in a critical condition.

The children's father was named in media reports as 57-year-old Mick Philpott, a father of 17 who made headlines in 2007 when he appeared in a television documentary about welfare made by 1990s prisons minister Ann Widdecombe.

He demanded that local authorities give him a larger house to share with his wife, girlfriend and eight of their children.

Widdecombe, who spent a week living with Philpott, said: "Nobody would ever call him a bad father. I'm so sorry to hear the news and my thoughts are with the family."

Philpott had made a "valiant attempt" to rescue the children, who had been sleeping on the first floor, Cotterill said.

Some 30 firefighters had battled to put out the fire and save the children's lives.

© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse