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Minimum 40-year and 37-year terms for men who murdered four children in blaze

Zak Bolland and David Worrall were fuelled by drink and drugs when they set the fire that engulfed a house.

Two men have been handed four life sentences each for murdering four children in a petrol bomb attack on their home.

Zak Bolland and David Worrall were both given four life sentences and told they would serve a minimum of 40 and 37 years respectively for the petrol bomb attack on a home in Walkden, Greater Manchester.

The blaze claimed the lives of siblings, Demi Pearson, 15, her brother, Brandon, aged eight, and sisters, Lacie, aged seven, and Lia, aged three.

Courtney Brierley, 20, who was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter was sentenced to 21 years in jail.

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File court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook dated 15/12/17 of Zak Bolland, Courtney Brierley and David Worrall (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Bolland, 23, welled up in tears and his head dropped as he was told he will serve a minimum of 40 years before parole as he sat in the dock at Manchester Crown Court.

His co-accused Worrall, 26, stared straight ahead as he was told he must serve a minimum of 37 years.

Bolland’s ex-girlfriend, Brierley had put her hands together under her chin before she was sentenced to 21 years’ detention for manslaughter.

Passing sentence Mr Justice William Davis said: “It is not necessary to describe the course of the fire.

“It was swift and it was deadly.

“Four children died a terrible death. Their mother has been grievously injured.”

The court heard Bolland and Worrall were fuelled by drink and drugs as they filled two glass bottles with £1.50 of petrol bought from a local garage, stuffing the tops with tissue paper as they prepared the attack at 5am on December 11.

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Emergency services at the scene in Jackson Street

After the kitchen window of Michelle Pearson’s home was put through, two lit petrol bombs were thrown inside.

Bolland hurled his bottle which “exploded” near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapping the victims upstairs.

Within seconds flames engulfed the three-bedroom mid-terrace home on Jackson Street, Walkden, Greater Manchester.

Mrs Pearson, 36, woke up and screamed: “Not the kids! Not my kids!” and dialled 999, but she was overcome with heat and smoke before completing the call.

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Demi Pearson

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

Their severely injured mother was rescued with her youngest daughter, Lia, three, who died in hospital two days later.

Mrs Pearson’s son Kyle, 17, had been involved in a “petty” feud with Bolland over damage to the defendant’s £200 car, prompting a series of tit-for-tat attacks.

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Brandon, Lacie and Lia Pearson

Kyle managed to escape with a friend, Bobby Harris.

Bolland was found guilty of four counts of murder and three of attempted murder.

Worrall was convicted of four counts of murder and three of attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Brierley was accused of encouraging the attack and was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter, but cleared of three counts of attempted murder.

Members of the Pearson family sitting in the public gallery hissed “Yes” as the guilty verdicts were delivered, following around 16 hours of deliberation by the jury.

Outside court Sandra Lever said her daughter Michelle Pearson was still recovering in hospital thanks to NHS staff but the family will never recover from losing the four children.

She said: “They will never be able to fix her broken heart.

“Our lives are just not the same without them.

“I was a nanny of 11, now I’m a nanny of seven. We will never again hear their voices.

“I hope that Bolland, Worrall and Brierley know they have taken away the lights of our lives.

“We are very happy today with the results and like to thank all those who helped us get justice.”

Miss Lever said she blamed the police, and also Salford City Council, who when her daughter asked to be re-housed, was told she was not in danger and to “go back home.”

She said: “They all knew about it and they all done nothing about it.

“They dropped the charges, I don’t know why.”

Detective Chief Inspector Lewis Hughes of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) was asked if officers failed to do basic police work in not tracking down Bolland who lived 300 yards from Mrs Pearson’s home and had already threatened to petrol bomb the house.

Mr Lewis said: “Nobody could have foreseen the level of violence that took place that night at that time.

“Many people make threats, many threats were made as part of this feud.

“Whether any opportunities were missed, I’m sure the IOPC (Independent Office for Police Conduct) will find that out but I don’t think anybody could ever have foreseen that this was going to take place during what had been a minor tit-for-tat feud.

“Of course, I met with the family and expressed my deepest sympathies for what had taken place.”

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