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Killers jailed for 89 years over house fire that left mum and four children dead

Two men and a woman behind a sickening arson attack which claimed the lives of a mum and her four children have been sentenced to a combined 89 years behind bars.

Zak Bolland, 26, and David Worrall, 28, were today sentenced for the murder of Michelle Pearson, 37, who died 20 months after they set fire to her home in December 2017.

Bolland was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 40 years, while Worrall was handed at least 37 years.

Bolland’s former girlfriend Courtney Brierley, 23, who ‘encouraged and assisted’ the pair, was jailed for 12 years for Michelle’s death after admitting manslaughter, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Michelle’s children, Demi Pearson, 14, Brandon, eight, Lacie, Seven, and three-year-old Lia all died as a result of the blaze in Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Michelle suffered catastrophic injuries and remained in hospital until her death in August 2019.

She spent her days “crying in pain”, and when she was able to speak she asked “where are my kids?”, Manchester Crown Court heard today.

She was “heartbroken” and after hearing Bolland was responsible said “he killed my kids, he killed my babies”, a statement from her family said.

Both Bolland and Worrall are already serving four life sentences after being convicted of the children’s murders in 2018.

Bolland had a minimum term of 40 years, while Worrall was sentenced to at least 37 years behind bars.

Brierley was previously sentenced to 21 years after being convicted for four counts of manslaughter.

New legislation means she must serve two thirds of her sentence.

Michelle’s family said they believe that if she hadn’t died for medical reasons, she would have died from a “broken heart”.

Judge Mrs Justice McGowan today said: “She lost any desire to go on living.”

She said Michelle “experienced pain and distress which cannot be adequately described or even imagined”.

The judge rejected arguments from Bolland and Worrall’s barristers that their minimum terms should not be increased.

Today she sentenced them again to 40 years and 37 years in prison respectively.

Both these sentences will begin from today.

Michelle’s mum Sandra Lever previously called for Bolland and Worrall to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

She told The Sun : “I think they’re all monsters.

“It’s just horrible and cruel to do what they did, especially to children. It was so cowardly.”

Michelle spent five months in a coma with 68 per cent burns to her body following the fire, which was started as she and her family slept.

When she awoke, she had to come to grips with the devastating news that her four youngest children had died in the blaze.

She had hoped to be well enough to attend her children’s funeral in 2018, but was forced to stay in hospital and came close to death on several occasions.

Michelle’s son Kyle, 18, survived the arson attack.

The Pearson family were sleeping in their beds when a molotov cocktail was tossed through the rear kitchen window of their home on Jackson Street at 5am.

Jurors at Manchester Crown Court were shown footage of the defendants buying beer bottles which were used to create the petrol bombs, hours before the attack.

Two lit petrol bombs were thrown inside the Pearsons’ home after the kitchen window was smashed.

Bolland hurled his bottle which “exploded” near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs.

Michelle and her daughter Lia, who were sleeping in the same bedroom, were rescued from the burning home and when Michelle woke to discover her home was engulfed in flames she screamed “Not the kids! Not my kids!” and dialled 999.

The devoted mum was overcome with heat and smoke before completing the call.

Lia died in hospital two days after the fire.

All four children “died a terrible death” from smoke inhalation and burns, the killers’ first trial heard.

In a heartbreaking video recorded in hospital for the first anniversary of the attack, Michelle said: “First of all, I’d like to thank all the firefighters for what they have done.

“Second, I would like to thank the community for all their generous donations. And last I would like to thank everybody for coming tonight.”

Before she died, courageous Michelle had managed to make one final trip outside her hospital ward.

She also called into the hospital gift shop to buy a thank you present for the nurses who had been caring for her for almost two years.

Speaking to the Sun Online, Sandra said: “Michelle didn’t really want to be with us. I think she wanted to be with the kids for a long while.

“I’m happy for her in a way because of the pain she went through for 20 months.”