The four signs that gave away guilt of sick child killers Mick and Mairead Philpott – from 'dry tears' to 'bowed head'
IN a plea for sympathy that has now become infamous, Mick Philpott and wife Mairead faced the cameras, just four days after the death of their six children, and begged for the family to be left alone.
A year later, in April 2013, the evil pair were jailed after being found guilty of setting fire to their house in Derby – killing Jade Philpott 10, and her brothers Duwayne, 13, John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five.
This week Mairead was released from prison after serving just half her 17-year sentence for manslaughter – sparking outrage from family members, including her own mother, Vera, who slammed the sentence as “not nearly long enough”.
The five youngest children died at their semi-detached council house after the Philpotts and pal Paul Mosley plotted to pour petrol through the letter box and start the blaze.
Teenager Duwayne died several days later in a Birmingham hospital.
Their despicable plan was to frame Lisa Willis, who had lived in with the couple and had five children by Mick Philpott but had recently left and sued for custody.
They intended to rescue the kids but pin the fire on Willis – who was arrested and quickly cleared.
Police initially believed the arson attack was targeted at dad-of-17 Philpott – who had a history of violence and had also appeared on the Jeremy Kyle Show and a 2007 documentary, Ann Widdecombe Versus The Benefit Culture.
But the press conference on May 16 2012 – later dubbed a “shameful performance” by Derbyshire Police – aroused suspicions that the couple had committed the heinous crime.
Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill, of Derbyshire Police, said: "After 30 years of doing what I do I have never seen anybody, having suffered that magnitude of loss, deal with it in the manner in which he dealt with it."
Body language expert Judi James says the couple’s “poorly-acted performance” contained many clues to their guilt.
“When we see people acting fake displays of profound emotions like grief or loss, under pressure and scrutiny, we usually only see a display that is based on assumption,” she says.
“The actors (who often have little capacity for emotion themselves in a criminal scenario) will try to imagine how someone would look if this tragedy had happened to them.
“They try to fabricate a ‘normal’ body language response that would barely ever exist under the kind of exceptional emotional circumstances they are trying to replicate.
“It is actually common for loving relatives to fall into a state of shock that produces a lack of facial expressions and tears and I have even seen some genuinely grief-stricken people smiling from sheer anguish.
“But Mairead and Mick Philpott appeared to have chosen the more textbook body language of hankies, tears and face-scrunching.”
Here Judi reveals the tell-tale signs that gave away the guilt of the twisted child-killers.
1. Shoulder shows domineering bully
Mick Philpott had a long history of violence against women and habitually preyed on very young women, charming them into a relationship before becoming abusive and controlling.
Mairead had been just 19 when she met her husband, 24 years her senior and the couple had six children.
A year after they wed, in 2001, he moved lover Lisa Willis into the house and would spend alternate nights with the two women.
The couple had a sordid sex life, with regular dogging sessions which led to Mairead falling pregnant by an unknown man. She later had an abortion.
Shockingly, on the night of the tragedy, the couple has a threesome with co-conspirator Paul Mosley.
Mick was clearly the headline act, dominating verbally and visually while Mairead sat bowed and silent.
A few days later, Mairead performed a sex act on Mosley and a secret recording suggested she had protested but her husband had pushed her into it.
Judi reveals his domineering nature was evident at the press conference.
Judi says: “Mick was clearly the headline act, dominating verbally and visually while Mairead sat bowed and silent.
“Mick leaned in towards her in what looked a bit like a gesture of support and empathy but his right shoulder was pushing into her in what looked more like a gesture of dominance.
“Mick show-boated from start to end, even delivering what sounded like an Oscar winner’s speech as he thanked a list of people, including the emergency services, and patted a hand to his own chest to signal a desire to be the centre of attention.
“His display of verbal ‘modesty’, graciously thinking of other peoples’ suffering before his own, seemed to suggest he was vying for even more sympathy and admiration than the public would have already given a man whose children had died in a house fire, which suggested both arrogance and vanity.”
2. Five ways to hide lying eyes
Throughout the press conference, Mairead barely spoke, allowing her husband to take the lead.
Her hunched persona and bowed head, says Judi, are all attempts to avoid eye contact with anyone in the room and, especially, the camera.
Judi says: “The good thing for Mairead was that Mick’s love of the spotlight allowed her to be off the hook and to hide rather than put in a matching performance.
“When people lie they often feel a need to hide their eyes from their audience.
“We might believe we can carry a lie with our bodies but our eyes feel like a give-away of the truth, which is why poker players often wear shades.
“Her desire to render herself invisible emerges in a non-stop ritual of cut-offs or covering gestures, especially eye cut-offs.
“Mairead used five key cut-off techniques here to shield her eyes – employing her hair, the hankie, her stooped posture, her hand and her eyelids, which she kept squeezed shut for much of the appearance.”
3. Crocodile tears
Dabbing her eyes constantly with a tissue, Mairead may think she is coming across as any grieving mother would in such horrendous circumstances.
But, looking closely, there’s little evidence of tears.
Judi says: “A problem for anyone lacking emotional responses is that actual tears are difficult to produce.
“Wet tears might not be conclusive proof of innocence, and I have seen guilty people crying in court, using tears prompted by their own fear of jail to look like grief for the victim, but both Mairead and Mick appeared to be doing some dry-eye crying here.
“What looked like a lack of actual tears made Mairead’s eye-wiping with a hankie look suspicious.
“She pulls her eyes so hard here that the lids pull and stretch right out across her face.
“Poking or pulling at the eye in this way, rather than using blotting gestures, can imply the person is using their hands and their hankie to make the eyes water rather than drying them.”
4. Dipped head and hair curtain
Mairead’s desire to blend into the background is further demonstrated by her bowed head and loose hair, falling over her face.
Judi says: “She keeps her mouth open slackly and her eyes closed and she dips her head so that her hair covers much of her face.
“At one point she even covers her face with her hand. There is a time when Mick does a small hand-over, hiding his own face with a hankie and asking for ‘a moment’ as he stops talking and Mairead seems to be aware it is her turn to take over.
“She lifts her head for the first time but, again, with no apparent sign of tears showing she still keeps her eyes tightly narrowed here.”
Mistakes that caught the killers
The press conference was not the only thing that came to light once the police started digging into the Philpotts’ behaviour.
As their eldest son, Duwayne, lay dying, Mick had to be persuaded by a liaison officer to go the hospital to see him and once there, he chatted up the nurses.
Shockingly, he even made sexual advances to the mortuary technicians as his five youngest lay in the morgue.
Detective Superintendent Paul Callum, who helped lead the investigation, told a Channel 5 documentary: “He chatted up the mortuary technicians.
“He made inappropriate comments about their breasts, about things he wanted to do with them sexually.
“He would then collapse into a pile and pretend he was upset. Then he’d sit up and say something inappropriate. He was a very strange character."
The couple were also put in a hotel, unaware that police had secretly bugged their room and a police van used to transport them.
In the disturbing recordings, Mick is heard asking his wife what she told the police and adding: “Did you stick to the story?”
Shortly after the tragedy, the pair were seen drinking Jack Daniels in their local The Navigation Inn, flirting and touching each other.
Locals reported they were “tipsy” and singing Elvis songs, including Suspicious Minds.
“You’d think they were celebrities,” said landlady Jeaane Doherty. “I would say they were enjoying the attention.”
Shockingly, Mick even attempted to cash in on the teddy bears left by well-wishers in front of the house by selling them on.
Perhaps the most crucial lead, however, was the traces of petrol found on their clothes by forensic experts which matched the type used to start the fire.
Despite being convicted of manslaughter, Mairead has served just hald her sentence and will be given a new identity now that she has been released.
Her husband is serving life with a minimum of 15 years.
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