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I did not intend to hurt anyone, says man accused of fire bombing murders

Zak Bolland said he thought the victims’ home was empty.

A man who admits petrol bombing a house in the dead of night which left four children dead told a jury he did not intend to hurt anyone.

High on cocaine and alcohol, Zak Bolland, 23, said it was his co-accused David Worrall, 25, who first suggested the fire bombing attack, but when they carried out the plan he thought the victims’ home was empty, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Bolland and Worrall had been to the house of Michelle Pearson, 35, “kicking off”, when her front door was smashed, at about half past midnight on December 11, the latest “tit for tat” attack during a “petty” feud between him and her son, Kyle.

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Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson died after a blaze at their home (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

About four hours later, at just before 5am, he returned with Worrall, armed with two petrol bombs.

They removed a fence panel from the back garden, a kitchen window was smashed and two lit petrol bombs thrown into the house on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

One landed near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs as flames engulfed the three bedroom mid-terrace home.

Demi Pearson, 15, her brother, Brandon, eight and sister, Lacie, seven, sleeping in a front bedroom, all perished in the blaze.

Mrs Pearson was rescued along with her youngest daughter, Lia, three, who died in hospital two days later.

Kyle Pearson, who had been feuding with Bolland, managed to escape.

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Demi Pearson was one of those who died following the fire at her home in Walkden (Greater Manchester Police/PA)

Bolland, his girlfriend Courtney Brierley, 20, and father-of-one Worrall, all deny four counts of murder.

Bolland gave evidence from the witness box on Friday, while 10 paces away about ten members of Michelle Pearson’s family sat in a row in the public gallery, arms crossed, watching him intently.

He said that in the early hours of December 11 he had been drinking and taking cocaine and got “wound up” so went round “kicking off” at Mrs Pearson’s house to find Kyle.

Police were called and he saw a patrol car outside the house and assumed officers were “taking them into protection”, he told the jury.

He blamed them for an earlier attempt to set fire to his mother’s home, where he lived, a couple of minutes walk away from the Pearsons’ house.

Bolland said Worrall suggested: “Why don’t we go and do it back?”

He told the jury: “I just thought it was the right idea and said, ‘Should we do it?’ and Dave said, ‘Yeah’.”

They bought £1.50 worth of petrol from a local garage and went to Mrs Pearson’s home, where Bolland said Worrall smashed the kitchen window with an axe, he lit toilet paper stuffed in the neck of a Budweiser bottle filled with petrol and Worrall threw it in and ran off.

He then tossed a second lit vodka bottle inside which exploded.

“I heard like a big whoosh. I didn’t look back,” he said.

“I did not think it would have been occupied. I assumed police had taken them into protection. I was drunk, high on cocaine, just rushing.

“I was just doing back to them what they did to me.”

Peter Wright QC, defending Bolland, asked him: “Did you intend to kill anyone?”

He replied: “That was not the intention whatsoever. I just intended to cause damage to the property.”

Hours later his mother called him to say the children had died and the police were looking for him.

Bolland said: “Devastated. I did not believe it. I had my head in my hands. I put my phone down and told Courtney. She was just in disbelief like I was.

“I did set the fire but I didn’t mean to harm anybody.”

Bolland, Worrall and Brierley also deny three counts of attempted murder.

Bolland has admitted reckless arson, a charge denied by the other two.

The trial was adjourned until Monday morning.

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