Salford house fire family had been living under threat and security was increased before devastating attack
The family of Michelle Pearson had been living under threat before the devastating attack. Demi Pearson, 14, Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, died after a blaze broke out on Jackson Street in Walkden at 5am on Monday morning. Five people have since been arrested in connection with the fire, and police have launched a murder investigation.
The M.E.N . has learned that security had been stepped up at the mid-terrace property. Sources confirmed to the M.E.N . that the house had been target hardened to protect the family living there from attack. Measures included the fitting of an increased security device on the letterbox.
Police confirmed that the force had very recent physical contact with the family – understood to be within 24 hours of the devastating attack.
The Manchester Evening News understands that police had been called there to a reported incident at the house at around 2am, around three hours before the blaze took hold. As well as the possibility that a flammable liquid was poured through the home s letterbox, there have also been reports that the perpetrator used scaffolding to launch the attack, although there has been been no confirmation of this by Greater Manchester Police. Chief Supt Wayne Miller confirmed at a press conference held at Swinton police station that there had been earlier incidents at the address, but refused to elaborate further or confirm the nature of the call.
As a result of the prior police contact GMP has voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in line with procedure.
The police chief said: There have been earlier incidents at the address and consequently a referral to the IPCC has been made. Asked whether the tragedy is being linked to organised crime, Chief Supt Miller said the force was keeping an open mind and did not comment further. He added: This is a fast moving live investigation and we have a major investigation team with scores of dedicated detectives working tirelessly.
The devastated older brother of the three young children who were killed has spoken of the moment he tried desperately to save them. Speaking about the horrific incident, Kyle Pearson told the M.E.N: I fell asleep and the next thing I knew was I could hear my mum screaming, Fire! . There was lots of smoke so I climbed out of an upstairs window.
I ve gone to get back in but a cloud of smoke hit me in the face.”
I can t get my head around it . It s disgraceful.
I tried to break the front door down and smashed a window, but I couldn t get in because of the flames and the smoke.”
Timeline of events
Monday, December 11
Police were originally called to the house following an incident, around three hours before the fire service were alerted to the blaze.
Firefighters raced to the family s mid-terrace home on Jackson Street in Walkden, Salford, after reports of a large fire.
Early reports from the fire service said that six people were taken to hospital . The street was closed off and transport bosses warned people to avoid the area.
Investigations into the blaze continued . Firefighters remained at the scene to monitor the house for any remaining hotspots.
Neighbours told the M.E.N . of their shock at what had happened . One local resident said she heard screaming and banging during the night, initially thinking it was an argument . She described the street as being quite loud .
Police confirmed three children died in the fire and a three-year-old girl remained in hospital in a critical condition. They also said the fire was being treated as suspicious . Officers revealed a girl, 14, a boy, eight, and a girl, seven, all passed away after the blaze broke out . The 35-year-old mother of all the children was in a serious condition in hospital, they said.
(Image: MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS)
During a press conference at Swinton police station, detectives confirmed they had launched a murder investigation and urged a suspect to give himself up . At the briefing, Chief Superintendent Wayne Miller told reporters that seven people were in the house at the time of the fire.
He added there was an active manhunt for a suspect.
The first victim of the fire was named as 14-year-old Demi Pearson, a pupil at Educating Greater Manchester school Harrop Fold.
GMP said they had arrested a man, 23, and a woman, 20, in connection with the fire . Both were held on suspicion of murder and taken into custody for questioning.
(Image: Manchester Evening News)
Two more victims of the fire were named – Demi s younger brother Brandon, eight, and his sister Lacie, seven . Their older brother Kyle Pearson, who escaped the burning property, paid tribute to his siblings.
Police confirmed three further arrests . Two young men, aged 18 and 20, were held on suspicion of murder . A 24-year-old man was also detained on suspicion of assisting and offender, a GMP spokesman said .
Five people have now been arrested in connection with the fatal fire.
Anyone with any information should contact police on 0161 856 8797, alternatively call 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-city-hall-security-lags-well-behind-rest-of-uk-and-must-be-upgraded-urgently-expert-warns-36348968.html
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. Andrew McQuillan accused the authorities of failing to do as much as they should to protect the public and called on the council to urgently make improvements.
He was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed details of a counter-terrorist assessment showing City Hall was extremely vulnerable to a car bomb or lone wolf attack involving knives or other weapons. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) identified the Christmas Market, which runs until December 23, as a “specific vulnerability”. The report will be discussed by the council’s strategic policy and resources committee today before it is debated at a full council meeting on December 4.
Mr McQuillan said: “I have worked on security at events across the UK, Europe and the US.
“The measures adopted in Northern Ireland just aren’t as good as those elsewhere, which is surprising given the significant paramilitary threat we faced in the recent past.
“Security at the Winter Wonderland event in London is phenomenal and that at the Christmas markets in Birmingham and Manchester is also very high.
“The measures in place at Belfast City Hall’s market lag seriously behind and this must be urgently addressed.
“We should not bury our heads in the sand . There are steps which can be taken immediately to improve the situation.”
The council has installed large planters on the pavement outside City Hall “to provide some protection in case of a vehicle-born attack” . But Mr McQuillan said that while the measure was welcome it wasn’t nearly enough. He suggested that protection could be enhanced if interlocking red-and-white security barriers were placed around City Hall . He added: “These have been placed at bridges in London before permanent barriers go up.
“They are filled with water and sand and are very cheap to erect.
“NaCTSO is a highly respected organisation . They have highlighted weaknesses and Belfast City Council really should move swiftly to implement their recommendations.”
Mr McQuillan, who owns Crowded Space Drones and whose father Alan was a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, said there was a dangerous complacency in Northern Ireland about the dangers of an attack at a public venue. He added: “Just because we had republican and loyalist violence in the past doesn’t exempt us from international terrorism . Some claim on social media that reporting the threat here is scaremongering.
“These people have no awareness whatsoever of public safety at events . A report from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office is not scaremongering . It has to be taken seriously.”
Mr McQuillan also claimed it was wrongly argued that increased security would mean Northern Ireland was returning to the past.
He said: “What these people ignore is that armed police at Christmas markets in England is very normal and England usually has an unarmed police force.
“We are dealing with a new emerging threat . Not updating and changing your plans is just not smart . It is waving a red flag at a bull.
“People can choose to inhabit a bubble but it doesn’t reflect the world we live in . No risks should be taken with major events.”
Mr McQuillan said the council could apply to have the national barrier asset system deployed – temporary high-grade security fencing which protects high-profile locations or events. He added: “I feel sorry for the council as the market’s location at City Hall isn’t the easiest to protect . We really need to talk about the issue .
Ignoring it doesn’t make our vulnerability go away.
“Making security at your event look visibly as hard as possible is a great deterrent for terrorists who are hunting vulnerable targets”.
Former Commonwealth boxing champ Nicky Booth punched Waitrose security guard who caught him stealing coffee
A boxing champion who once fought for a world title has appeared in court after he lashed out at a security guard who caught him stealing tins of coffee worth just 16. Nicky Booth was ordered to pay 100 compensation to the guard who had caught him stealing from Waitrose in Milton Street, Nottingham city centre. Booth, 37, once held the Commonwealth and British boxing1 titles as a bantamweight.
He even challenged for the IBO world title in 2001, but was stopped in seven rounds by Jose Sanjuanelo at Wembley Conference Centre.
On May 4 this year Booth, who lives in Hucknall, visited Nottingham after staying with relatives and going ‘cold turkey’ in a bid to beat drugs. He went to the Waitrose store and stole three tins of coffee worth 15.66, said Lee Shepherd, prosecuting at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court3 on Wednesday November 8.
Nicky Booth boxing at Harvey Hadden in 2003
Booth then returned to the store later that day and tried to get away with four tins of coffee worth 16.72, but was spotted. Mr Shepherd said: “The security guard tried to detain him and he was punched to the jaw . After being arrested, Mr Booth was apologetic for his actions.”
Defence solicitor Chris Saunders told the court: “He comes across as a frail character nowadays . You can see he has trouble getting his words out correctly.
“You have seen he is almost shuffling when he comes into court .
He has been out of trouble for ten years and the problem is Class A drugs . When I spoke to him, he said ‘I need some help.’
“At the moment, he has various illnesses . His immune system is currently attacking his antibodies.”
When the assault took place, Booth was with a former partner who was pregnant.
Mr Saunders added: “It was in effect a warning strike.”
Nicky Booth boxing at Harvey Hadden Stadium in 2002
He must pay 85 prosecution costs, an identical amount as a government tax, and 15.66 to Waitrose, on top of the compensation. He must also complete a six-month drug rehabilitation course.
Deputy District Judge Richard Marshall told him: “You have been out of trouble for some time but you have obviously got yourself into trouble with drugs.”
In 2003 Booth lost a WBU title fight at Harvey Hadden Stadium against Nathan Sting, and never boxed professionally again. He retired with a record of 17 wins from 23 fights, but was later jailed for drug offences.