Neighbour tells of mother's screams during fatal petrol bomb attack

A mother screamed "Not the kids! Not my kids!" as four of her children perished in the flames of a petrol bomb attack as they slept in their beds, a jury heard.

Michelle Pearson, 35, was asleep with her youngest child Lia, three, in a cot beside her and three other children in the bedroom next door when their home was attacked at 5am on December 11 last year.

Zak Bolland, 23, along with David Worrall, 25, removed a fence panel from the garden of the Pearson's home, smashed a kitchen window and tossed in two lit petrol bombs, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Both men and Bolland's girlfriend, Courtney Brierley, 20, are on trial for the murders.

Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson died in the blaze at their home (Greater Manchester Police/PA)
Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson died in the blaze at their home (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

One petrol bomb landed near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs as flames engulfed the three bedroom mid-terrace house.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, sleeping in a front bedroom, all perished in the blaze at their mid-terrace home on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Mrs Pearson was rescued along with Lia, who died in hospital two days later.

Next door neighbour Karen Kormoss, giving evidence from behind a curtain screening the witness box from the rest of the courtroom, told the jury she woke to hear Mrs Pearson's voice as the fire took hold.

Paul Reid QC, prosecuting, asked her: "What did you hear coming from next door?"

In a trembling voice, Miss Kormoss replied: "Screaming. Shouting. I could tell Michelle's voice. I could tell the children's voice.

"I could hear Michelle shouting, 'Not the children. Not the kids.'

"I could hear her voice, 'Not my kids.'"

Demi Pearson, 15, also died in the fire (Greater Manchester Police/PA)
Demi Pearson, 15, also died in the fire (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Miss Kormoss said she dialled 999 straight away then saw the windows of the house next door in flames.

She added: "It happened in two minutes. The windows blown out and the flames coming out of both the upstairs and downstairs."

She went outside to see firefighters, paramedics and police at the house but added: "It was gone. Just smoke."

Mrs Pearson's son, Kyle Pearson, 16, managed to escape the blaze along with his friend, Bobby Harris, 17, who was also staying at the house.

It is alleged a dispute between Kyle and Bolland over damage to the defendant's car led to a petty feud involving smashing the windows at each of the other's homes before culminating in the fatal arson attack.

Another neighbour Tony Holdsworth told the court he saw flames "coming out like a jet" from the windows of Mrs Pearson's house.

He said Kyle and his friend were "going absolutely crazy," screaming: "Tony, go in the house. Get the kids out! Get the kids!"

Mr Holdsworth said he kicked the front door in, which had turned to molten plastic, but the backdraft blew him up the garden path and he was beaten back by the flames and heat.

His daughter Keira Holdsworth told the jury the fire spread "rapidly" with the windows, "full of fire."

Mrs Pearson is still in hospital recovering from her injuries.

Earlier the court heard that four hours before the arson attack Bolland had banged on the front door of Mrs Pearson's home, shouting he would, "kill 'em all."

Mrs Pearson called police who took a statement and checked on the children before leaving an hour and a half later.

Shortly after Bolland and Worrall went to a local garage with a petrol can, buying £1.50 of petrol, which they used to fill two glass beer bottles and returned with Brierley in a car to the Pearsons' home.

Bolland, Worrall and Brierley deny four counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder relating to Michelle Pearson, Kyle Pearson and Bobby Harris.

Bolland has admitted reckless arson, a charge denied by the other two.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday morning.