Philpott trial: Expert states petrol was on clothes of all three Victory Road accused
A FORENSIC scientist has told a jury that low levels of petrol were found on the clothing of three people accused of setting fire to a house and killing six children.
Mick and Mairead Philpott deny the manslaughter of their children, Duwayne, 13, Jade, 10, John, nine, Jack, seven, Jesse, six, and five-year-old Jayden.
All died following the blaze at their home in Allenton last year.
A third defendant, Paul Mosley also denies six counts of manslaughter.
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Rebecca Jewell, who specialises in fire investigations, told Nottingham Crown Court, that branded fuel has a higher concentration of additives, which makes car engines run more efficiently, compared to supermarket petrol.
Ms Jewell said: "The liquid in petrol is not the part that burns, that is the vapours that sit above it.
"Petrol additives do not burn in fires, they are left behind. This means we can analyse them and unequivocally say which brand they come from."
She explained to the jury that additives remain on clothing for a long time, even when the fuel has evaporated.
Over six months following the fire, police sent the expert a series of exhibits, including clothing, from the defendants and the scene.
Richard Latham QC, prosecuting, ran through a list of items of clothing from the defendants and from Mr Adam Taylor, who lives three doors down from where the fire happened.
He first asked Mrs Jewell if she found traces of petrol additives on Philpott's black Adidas jogging bottoms.
She said: "Yes, from Total and BP."
He then asked about a pair of Philpott's slippers that were seized from the conservatory of the house after the fire.
She said: "Total additives were found on one of the slippers, the right one."
Mr Latham then asked for the results of her analysis of a pair of Philpott's trainers, also seized from the conservatory.
She said: "A low level of Shell additive was found on the right trainer and a low level of Total additive was found on the left trainer."
Finally, Mr Latham asked about a pair of boxer shorts the police seized that belonged to Philpott.
Mrs Jewell said: "There was a low level of Shell additive and a pair of grey socks that were recovered from a neighbour's property after the fire had Total additive on them."
Mrs Jewell also revealed the results of her laboratory's tests into Mairead Philpott's dressing gown and white T-shirt, which she said came out negative for petrol additives, and then said a low level of Total additive was discovered on some black leggings and a pair of sandals also sent by the police for analysis,
And the results of tests carried out on Mosley's clothing found Total fuel additive on his jumper, jeans and one of his shoes.
Mrs Jewell was also asked to analyse four pairs of jeans belonging to Mr Taylor, who went with the Philpotts to buy some cannabis around six hours before the fire.
All came out negative for containing any petrol additives.
Mrs Jewell said: "Additives are very stable and will remain in clothing until it is washed off by detergent.
"Even when degraded we can tell which brand, for example Shell or BP, the base fuel has come from by their particular additives."
Asked by Mr Latham if any "ignitable liquid" was found on the doormat outside 18 Victory Road, Mrs Jewell said: "No."
She was then asked to confirm that petrol was found in two different samples of fire debris sent to her that was found in the hallway of the fire house at the seat of the blaze.
She said: "Yes, and when we analysed it, it was from Shell.
"These included burnt segments of carpet, underlay and gripper rods.
"They all contained Shell additives."
Mr Latham said: "What about the results of samples sent to you that were taken from the U-bend of the kitchen sink at 18 Victory Road."
Ms Jewell said: "They contained a low level of Total petrol."
In cross-examination Ms Jewell was asked to physically examine items of clothing she had analysed in her laboratory.
Wearing surgical gloves she cut open police exhibit bags to show the jury the underwear, leggings and flip-flops that all contained traces of petrol additive and were seized from Mairead Philpott.
Shaun Smith QC, for Philpott's wife, asked Ms Jewell: "Is it not possible to say exactly where on the pants and leggings the petrol was?"
Ms Jewell said: "No."
Ben Nolan QC, for Mosley, asked Ms Jewell: "You are unable to help us to say when the petrol additive got on these items of clothing?"
Ms Jewell said: "That's right, I cannot say when it occurred."
Dr David Schudel, a defence witness for Mosley, explained to the court he was a certified chemist and fire investigator.
The court was told his evidence would be confined to a sample analysed that was taken from the U-Bend of the kitchen of 18 Victory Road after the fire.
He said: "It is not likely, from the evidence, that petrol had recently been poured down the sink. It was particularly dirty."
But his evidence was questioned by Mr Latham.
He said: "You cannot exclude that all three defendants had Total additives on their clothing, can you?"
Dr Schudel said: "No, that's right."
Mr Latham said: "All these people had Total additives on their clothing. You cannot exclude that, can you?"
Dr Schudel said: "No, that's right."
Mr Latham said: "If you wash your hands at a kitchen sink of petrol that must have been pretty close to the last use of the U-bend, wouldn't it?"
Dr Schudel said: "It would have to be a very recent event, yes."
Mr Latham said: "It is pretty safe to assume the kitchen sink would be in pretty regular use."
*THE PHILPOTT TRIAL: Visit our Philpott trial channel here for all related stories in the fire death case.