Philpott, convicted yesterday of killing six of his children, is by no means
the worst multiple killer in recent history, but he’s one of the worst kind.
because his social profile – unlike that of, say, the freaky psychopathic loner
obsessed with automatic weapons, or the batty doctor convinced he’s doing his
patients a favour by bumping them off in large numbers – is uncomfortably and unnervingly
is no psycho, nor is he mad. He’s merely
a feckless rat of careless fecundity mired in a tawdry lifestyle that is far
from rare in that dank nether world of meaningless inhabited by Britain’s underclass.
that sounds a little overdramatic, consider Philpott’s story.
the time of the killings, he lived on a rude council estate in Derbyshire with
the six children – and at various times others – and a wife and a mistress,
whose favours he shared on alternate nights in a caravan in the back
garden. All told he had fathered
seventeen kids by five different women. Though
unemployed, he enjoyed the child benefits paid to the mother, which, combined with
other state benefits, gave the family sufficient income to live on. He had once served briefly as a soldier but
was thrown out of the army after going absent without leave. Soon after that he stabbed and severely
injured a former girlfriend after she had threatened to leave him. Her mother was also wounded in the attack. Sentenced to seven years in prison for
attempted murder, he served just three.
six victims were incinerated, as a result of Philpott and his wife, abetted by
a friend, setting light to petrol poured through the letter box. Their motive, not necessarily murderous, was
to ‘punish’ a former mistress, the mother of four more of his children, for
leaving the house.
the subsequent press conference, Philpott and wife were impressively distraught,
pleading for the family to be ‘left alone to grieve in peace’. The public responded by raising money for the
the police smelled a rat, based in part on Philpott’s jaunty manner during
their investigation. Philpott had even
boasted of an appearance on a television chat show, in which he bragged about
his unusual domestic arrangement. Their
suspicions were justified; at the trial, tapes were produced of Philpott and
wife discussing the matter of getting their stories straight.
wasn’t motivated by greed or rage, and least of all by incipient madness, but
by nothing more than a desire for revenge on a woman who had jilted him. If he didn’t mean to kill his children, as he
claimed, he was reckless and uncaring enough to put them in jeopardy, and cruel
enough afterwards to brush it off as nothing more than a cock-up.
didn’t seek notoriety, and none will be achieved. If he made us squirm over the breakfast
table, and haunted us for the rest of the day, by tomorrow the newspapers will
all but ignore him. We’ll forget him
soon enough, too.
almost inevitably, the irredeemably pathetic social environs that produced him
will before long produce another of his kind.