April 2021

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

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.

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 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.

March 2021

Convicted child killers guilty of murdering mother in same arson attack

Two convicted child killers have been found guilty of the murder of a woman who died 20 months after the same arson attack killed four of her children.

Zak Bolland, 26, and David Worrall, 28, were both convicted by a jury on Tuesday of the murder of Michelle Pearson, 37, following a three-week trial at Manchester Crown Court.

The pair were already serving four life sentences – with a minimum of 40 years for Bolland and 37 for Worrall – for the murders of her four children following a trial in 2018.

They denied the murder of Mrs Pearson, claiming they had been wrongly convicted of murdering her children. Both will be sentenced next month.

High on drink and drugs, the pair launched the fatal attack, the culmination of series of tit-for-tat attacks while feuding with the 16-year-old son of Mrs Pearson.

They petrol-bombed her home on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester, in the early hours of the morning, trapping the family upstairs as a ferocious blaze engulfed the house on December 11, 2017.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, aged eight, and sister Lacie, aged seven, all perished in the blaze.

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

Her eldest son, Kyle Pearson, 16, managed to escape the blaze through a window.

Mrs Pearson suffered 68% burns to her body and “clung on to life” the court heard, until she died, aged 37, on August 25 2019 – 20 months after the attack.

Bolland’s girlfriend at the time of the attack, Courtney Brierley, 23, who “encouraged or assisted them”, was convicted of four counts of manslaughter at the first trial and jailed for 21 years.

She admitted the manslaughter of Mrs Pearson. All three will be sentenced on April 21.

June 2019

Woman, 21, who killed four children in Walkden house fire to appeal conviction

A woman jailed for helping arsonists torch a family home – killing four children – is set to appeal against her conviction next week.

Courtney Brierley, 21, was jailed for manslaughter last year for helping two men – her then-boyfriend Zak Bolland and his accomplice, David Worrall – carry out the 5am petrol bomb attack on a family home in Walkden.

Demi Pearson, 15, and her siblings Brandon, eight, Lacie, seven, and three-year-old Lia were all killed. Their mother Michelle, 36, was rescued but was seriously hurt.

The attack was the devastating climax to a feud involving Bolland and Kyle Pearson, Michelle Pearson’s eldest son, who escaped the blaze.

Bolland and his partner-in-crime David Worrall are both serving life for murder and must serve a minimum 40 and 37 years behind bars respectively.

Following a trial at Manchester Crown Court , the jury found Courtney Brierley not guilty of murder but convicted her of four counts of manslaughter.

She was sentenced to 21 years in a young offenders’ institution and can apply for parole halfway through her sentence.

Brierley – said to be a ‘broken’ woman behind bars – has lodged appeals against both her sentence and conviction.

She helped Zak Bolland and David Worrall carry out the attack on December 11, 2017, urging them to put their hoods up as they purchased the petrol used in the firebombing and then going with them in the car that took them and the petrol bombs to Jackson Street in Walkden.

Brierley had claimed she acted because she was in fear of her violent and abusive boyfriend Bolland and had not realised exactly what he was about to do.

Her legal team tried and failed to get the case against her thrown out mid-trial, arguing she had done little more than the prosecution’s main witness Abigail Toone, who had unwittingly acted as the trio’s getaway driver.

The Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in London has confirmed that her appeal is listed for June 27.

It is understood Brierley is serving her sentence at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey which houses some of the nation’s most dangerous female prisoners, including Joanna Dennehy, who stabbed three men to death in 2013.

Last year one prisoner, after their release, said: “Courtney was very, very quiet, very broken. I didn’t know what she’d done until after I’d left and I was horrified, you just would not have thought it of her.”

She described how Brierley was housed in a block with lifers.

“Courtney came straight in on remand and was put in a single cell which she rarely left. She was employed as a cleaner but was always being chased by senior prison officers to come and do her work,” said the woman.

She added: “She always looked like she’d been crying, was very, very quiet, didn’t make friends with anyone, rarely ate.

“She was completely broken and received a lot of one to one time in her cell from the prison officers.”

When she was returned to the prison to begin her sentence following a period on remand there, Brierley was in a ‘very bad way’.

Bolland, 24, of Blackleach Drive, Worsley, was jailed for a minimum of 40 years after he was convicted of murder at the conclusion of that trial, which heard he threw a large petrol bomb into the house through a rear window as the family slept.

His friend Worrall, 27, of Worsley Avenue, Worsley, had thrown a smaller petrol bomb into the house but it had not caused significant damage. He was caged for a minimum 37 years after being convicted of murdering the children.