Kids called me grandad, says Belfast neighbour of killer Philpott
Every morning Michael Garland pulls back his curtains he is confronted with a heartbreaking reminder of the crimes carried out by Mick and Mairead Philpott.
Mr Garland, who is originally from Belfast, was a close friend of the couple.
Living just yards away from their property, he was a daily visitor to their home.
The six children who perished in the blaze were so fond of him they referred to him as ‘grandad’.
Mr Garland moved to England from west Belfast in 1984.
A fruit and vegetable retailer, he employed Jimmy Duffy, Mairead Philpott’s father, who is originally from Omagh.
When Mr Duffy and his wife split up, Mr Garland opened his doors to him.
Mairead was just a toddler at the time and spent every weekend at Mr Garland’s house with her siblings.
Yesterday, Mr Garland (52) gave his reaction to the sentences handed out to Mick and Mairead Philpott and their friend Paul Mosley. He said: “What they got wasn’t long enough.
“There’s six children dead in total. Even if he serves his maximum sentence of 25 years it’s still only a few years a life,” he told the Belfast Telegraph from his Derby home.
“I’m getting upset even talking about it now. I was very close to them. The kids called me grandad.
“He should have got natural life but unfortunately there isn’t such a sentence.
“They all should have. They are all as guilty as each other, there’s no getting away from it.
“Whoever poured the petrol and lit the fire knew the children were upstairs.”
Mr Garland said he was still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
He said he misses the children every day.
Philpott first came to his attention when Mr Garland found out he was drinking with his teenage son and confronted him.
“He used to drink with my son and I found that quite strange, that a man his age would want to be drinking with an 18-year-old,” he said.
“I challenged him in the pub about it and that’s when I found out about him stabbing his ex-girlfriend.”
Philpott was popular in the area as he owned a minibus. If a neighbour had an event such as a wedding they would call him for transport.
“I got to know him through that,” Mr Garland said.
“I wouldn’t say I was close to him but I got to know him through that. I was more close with Mairead than I was him.
“She was a ‘yes’ girl. She was very, very subdued. No matter what fella she was with she was the same.
“What he said, she did.”
Mr Garland dismissed suggestions Philpott had a reputation locally as somebody not to be crossed. “No, he was not considered a hard man at all,” he said.
“In the papers here it says he had a reputation.
“The only reputation he had round here was that of an idiot.
“He was a glory hunter, always out (saying) ‘look at me, I’m Mick Philpott, everybody likes me’.
“He would spread rumours around about himself just so
somebody in the estate would ring the papers about him.
“He struck me as a bit of a sociopath. He loved the limelight.
“He says he regrets all that (the publicity) but I know for a fact he doesn’t.
“I spoke to him about it and tried to tell him everything he was doing was wrong.
“He’s a man of his own mind, he gets tunnel vision and that’s it, he’s gone,” he said.
Mr Garland said a petition had been started in Derby yesterday in an attempt to have the sentences of Philpott and Mosley increased.
“Thankfully they have been convicted of it and maybe now the kids can rest in peace,” he added.