As a mother of five children, the case of all your children dying in a house fire struck a chord with me. My house is chaotic, messy and mostly a war zone but to have it wiped out all in one go – its the stuff of nightmares.
So when I heard that the parents had been charged with murder. Well, there are no words. Like everyone else, as a mother, I feel repulsed. But then my sociologist/psychologist interest kicks in, and I want to know why? Search the news articles and there is no suggestion of motive or theories of what happened. Only flaming viterole for the parents. “Rot in hell” comes up alot. Surely their punishment should fit the crime? So what was the crime? What was the reason for it?
Lets start at the top. They are a sadisitic couple who murdered their children in cold blood for “the fun of it” (a la Rosemary and Fred West). It seems unlikely – why wait 13 years and kill them all at once? There are (so far) no reports of a history of problems that would indicate this was “on the cards”. Anyone with a penchant for crime psychological dramas like “Criminal Minds” will know that these things dont “come out of the blue”. There will have been warning signs – so why werent they picked up? The man has had a history of girlfriends – one must have thought it was odd he liked to light fires or wanted her to help him kill someone. Why do we turn our backs until it is too late? And then only blame the culprits – shouldnt we all “rot in hell” for not acting sooner? This pair are safely locked up out of the way of society. What about the rest of us turning our backs on the next potential tradegy.
Most people who you ask “why?” will suggest it was an insurance job gone wrong. Perhaps they did it to get a new house or for the community to shower them with donations to re-build their home.
There are a number of stories of parents pretending their children have leukamia or in Shannon Matthews case, claiming they have been kidnapped. Perhaps they did it for the attention – and they would have suceeded in this task. Money and 15 mins of fame are certainly powerful motivators. Why is the 15 minutes of fame so attractive? Thats a discussion for another day!
But why petrol? Petrol will cause a tremendous fire, not just an attention-seeking few flames. Did they not realise that? In which case, we need to better educate people on the dangers of petrol. The recent petrol panic-buying and the woman decanting some in her kitchen next to a gas flame suggests that “petrol” is not given the fire-causing respect it deserves. So perhaps the media can help with a massive “PETROL BURNS” campaign rather than “Parents should rot in hell”. Wouldnt that be better for the potential future victims of parents seeking money?
Did they intend to kill the children? The charge of “murder” (as opposed to manslaughter) suggests that they did. But why? Was it because “we are too many” (a quote from a film I saw a long time ago with Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet and it still gives me nightmares – the son kills his sister and then himself “because we are too many” – gives me chills when I have to stay something similar to my children). Lets not forget – the mother is 31. 31? with 6 children? The eldest of whom was 13 – thats an 18-year old mother. She’s had no life of her own. Who can blame her for a fleeting thought of “if only I’d chosen a different path”.
I find 5 children a handful (but wouldnt have it any other way) so there is some (perverted) logic there. So the media could help by launching a big campaign about family planning and the difficulties faced by parents and encouraging extended family support and “the big society” idea. Id love to help local parents who were struggling – Ive looked into fostering and childcare but the paperwork and red tape puts me right off. This campaign would benefit society more than “Parents rot in hell”.
Alternatively perhaps there is a mental health problem. Considering killing your children is not a good sign that you still have your marbles. I have depression and Im vocal about it – as soon as you start talking about it, you’ll find most people (particularly women) have (or have had) depression of varying degrees at one time or another. And yet we dont talk about it. Its getting better – Mind’s #whatstigma campaign, Ricky Hatton and Gary Speed are all high profile campaigns about encouraging people to talk about mental health.
But parents are frightened. During my post natal depression classes, a common theme is that mothers dont want to admit they cant cope in case their children are taken away. The answer the professionals return with is “there are enough children in care already – we dont want yours as well”. Those who look for help are the good parents. This message should be shouted from the rooftops. Perhaps if we encourage parents to seek help we will reduce the caseload for social workers so that they can concentrate on Baby P cases. Parents “rot in hell” wont help.
Or maybe the “murder” charge is due to public outcry and the actual crime is “manslaughter” and they didnt intend the children to die. In this case, whatever and why they did what they did. They didnt deserve to lose six children. They deserve our sympathy not to “rot in hell”. The pain of not only losing but causing the loss of all six of your children will make life on earth hell enough. They have lost six children – their lives as they knew it is over. Sarah Payne’s mother and father will never feel the same as they did before their daughter was murdered entirely without blame or fault on their part – their lives from now on is about dealing with it.
Mick and Mairead Philpott deserve sympathy for their stupidity.
We need to educate people in the dangers of fire (and petrol particularly). We need to ask why they didnt take precautions about ensuring the children were not in the house. We spend so much time educating our children in Latin or History (and those who cant achieve these academic heights are sidelined from society) that we forget to teach them about common sense and consequences (two subjects which are vital in any workplace so why is it omitted?). I’d love to teach teenagers about how to look a subject and analyse it or to work it through to its conclusion. How can I do it? Im not sure where to start. Perhaps I should start a media campaign – perhaps I can change the world (a la Jamie Oliver and his healthy school dinners)?
Rest in Peace Duwayne Philpott, 13, Jade, 10, and John, nine, Jack, eight, Jessie, six and Jayden, five. Your parents “rotting in hell” wont bring you back. But asking “why?” might at least avoid further tradegies and make your death less senseless.