Court intent as 'tall geography master' Latham asks questions of trial witness
Beyond the compelling headlines of the Philpott trial, the experience of sitting in court and watching them unfold is equally as gripping. Chris Jones reports.
AS soon as she says the word "rehearsed", the reaction is instantaneous.
More than half a dozen reporters sit suddenly forward, disturbing the hushed atmosphere of the courtroom with sounds of suit jackets stretching and pens hitting notebooks.
There comes some rapid scribbling, then a pause: dozens of ears alert and waiting.
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From behind the curtain, the witness continues, a disembodied voice floating across the airy courtroom, amplified by microphone.
It belongs to Melissa John, who is being questioned by prosecutor Richard Latham QC, a tall, geography master of a barrister with languid, gentle movements.
He leans forward, his folded arms resting on the giant legal file open on the stand before him.
Tilting his head to one side, he smiles as he questions Miss John.
And, in answer to his questions, the witness has just told the court she heard Paul Mosley say he and Mick Philpott had "rehearsed" the fire which killed Mick and wife Mairead's six children six weeks before it happened.
In the dock, Mick Philpott dropped his gaze and lowered his head; behind him, Paul Mosley flicked a look at the public gallery.
This is the Philpott trial, more than two weeks in; a searing crucible of claims and counter-claims, dealing one fresh shock after another as the story unfolds.
The hearing had begun at just after 10.30am.
A loose gaggle of reporters, press officers and family had gathered outside court room number one at Nottingham Crown Court.
Rounds of nods, winks and waves took place; these are people who are meeting each other every day as the trial rolls on.
Barristers and solicitors streamed past, files and box folders under their arms, gowns curling out behind them as they walked into the court room in plenty of time.
Finally, the police officer guarding the door to the court room stands to one side and first reporters – each bearing a specially-made pass – then family, then members of public are shown into the court, taking their seats in the spacious public gallery in the wood-panelled courtroom.
Along with the interested parties, there are some who have come simply to watch; readers and viewers curious to see the biggest story in Derby unfurl.
At the head of the 1981-built court, long, tall windows let grey sunlight stream into the high-ceilinged room.
Underneath them are the judge's bench and facing this, three rows of benches for barristers and solicitors, lined with hundreds of files, stretching across the desk tops like a papery skyline.
Behind these, at the back of the court, is the glass-walled and fronted dock.
With everyone in place, the court is told to stand while the trial judge, Mrs Justice Kate Thirlwall, enters.
After this, it is the turn of the accused to arrive.
The dock door clanks open and several beefy security officers, tattooed arms bulging from their white shirt sleeves, lead in Mick, Mairead and Paul Mosley.
They take their seats, separated by guards and assume distant looks they maintain throughout he morning.
Mick seems slighter in the flesh than media images suggest, more drawn and fragile, but perhaps this is what being at the centre of such a story can do.
Hour after hour his face is pinched and pained, squinting as if into bright sunlight while he listens to the evidence, rarely looking left or right.
Mairead meanwhile, with her pointed, pagan-esque features, occasionally flashes her family members a smile or nod.
But, above the constant tap and chatter of laptop typing and the endless sigh of the air-conditioning, court room one at Nottingham Crown Court almost crackles with the tension of the case.
*THE PHILPOTT TRIAL: Visit our Philpott trial channel here for all related stories in the fire death case.