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.