Woman jailed for manslaughter of four children in blaze loses conviction appeal

A woman jailed for manslaughter over a petrol bomb attack which killed four children has lost an appeal against her conviction.

Courtney Brierley, 21, was jailed for 21 years over the attack on a home in Walkden, Greater Manchester, in December 2017.

The blaze claimed the lives of siblings Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, aged eight, and sisters Lacie, aged seven, and Lia, aged three.

Brierley’s then boyfriend Zak Bolland and David Worrall were each convicted of four counts of murder and jailed for life, with minimum terms of 40 and 37 years respectively.

File court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook dated 15/12/17 of Zak Bolland, Courtney Brierley and David Worrall (Elizabeth Cook/PA)
Court artist sketch of Zak Bolland, Courtney Brierley and David Worrall (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Brierley appealed against her conviction, arguing that it was “inconsistent” with the jury’s verdicts in relation to Bolland and Worrall.

But, following a hearing in London on Thursday, the Court of Appeal dismissed her case.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Warby and Mr Justice Julian Knowles, said: “There is no arguable ground on which the safety of the convictions can be challenged.”

The court also dismissed an appeal by Brierley against her sentence.

Emergency services at the scene in Jackson Street
Emergency services at the scene in Jackson Street (Peter Byrne/PA)

The trial at Manchester Crown Court heard Bolland had been involved in a “petty” feud with Kyle Pearson over damage to the defendant’s £200 car, prompting a series of tit-for-tat attacks.

A jury was told Bolland and Worrall were fuelled by drink and drugs as they filled two glass bottles with £1.50 of petrol bought from a local garage, stuffing the tops with tissue paper as they prepared the attack at 5am on December 11 2017.

After the kitchen window of Kyle’s mother Michelle Pearson’s home was put through, two lit petrol bombs were thrown inside.

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

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

Within seconds, flames engulfed the three-bedroom mid-terrace home.

Mrs Pearson, then 36, woke up and screamed “Not the kids! Not my kids!” and dialled 999, but she was overcome with heat and smoke before completing the call.

Demi, her brother Brandon and her sister Lacie, who were sleeping in a front bedroom, all died in the blaze.

Kyle managed to escape with a friend, Bobby Harris.

Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson
Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Mrs Pearson was rescued with her youngest daughter, Lia, who died in hospital two days later.

Bolland was found guilty of four counts of murder and three of attempted murder.

Worrall was convicted of four counts of murder and three of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Brierley was accused of encouraging the attack and was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, but cleared of three counts of attempted murder.

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