June 2019

Woman, 21, who killed four children in Walkden house fire to appeal conviction

A woman jailed for helping arsonists torch a family home – killing four children – is set to appeal against her conviction next week.

Courtney Brierley, 21, was jailed for manslaughter last year for helping two men – her then-boyfriend Zak Bolland and his accomplice, David Worrall – carry out the 5am petrol bomb attack on a family home in Walkden.

Demi Pearson, 15, and her siblings Brandon, eight, Lacie, seven, and three-year-old Lia were all killed. Their mother Michelle, 36, was rescued but was seriously hurt.

The attack was the devastating climax to a feud involving Bolland and Kyle Pearson, Michelle Pearson’s eldest son, who escaped the blaze.

Bolland and his partner-in-crime David Worrall are both serving life for murder and must serve a minimum 40 and 37 years behind bars respectively.

Following a trial at Manchester Crown Court , the jury found Courtney Brierley not guilty of murder but convicted her of four counts of manslaughter.

She was sentenced to 21 years in a young offenders’ institution and can apply for parole halfway through her sentence.

Brierley – said to be a ‘broken’ woman behind bars – has lodged appeals against both her sentence and conviction.

She helped Zak Bolland and David Worrall carry out the attack on December 11, 2017, urging them to put their hoods up as they purchased the petrol used in the firebombing and then going with them in the car that took them and the petrol bombs to Jackson Street in Walkden.

Brierley had claimed she acted because she was in fear of her violent and abusive boyfriend Bolland and had not realised exactly what he was about to do.

Her legal team tried and failed to get the case against her thrown out mid-trial, arguing she had done little more than the prosecution’s main witness Abigail Toone, who had unwittingly acted as the trio’s getaway driver.

The Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in London has confirmed that her appeal is listed for June 27.

It is understood Brierley is serving her sentence at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey which houses some of the nation’s most dangerous female prisoners, including Joanna Dennehy, who stabbed three men to death in 2013.

Last year one prisoner, after their release, said: “Courtney was very, very quiet, very broken. I didn’t know what she’d done until after I’d left and I was horrified, you just would not have thought it of her.”

She described how Brierley was housed in a block with lifers.

“Courtney came straight in on remand and was put in a single cell which she rarely left. She was employed as a cleaner but was always being chased by senior prison officers to come and do her work,” said the woman.

She added: “She always looked like she’d been crying, was very, very quiet, didn’t make friends with anyone, rarely ate.

“She was completely broken and received a lot of one to one time in her cell from the prison officers.”

When she was returned to the prison to begin her sentence following a period on remand there, Brierley was in a ‘very bad way’.

Bolland, 24, of Blackleach Drive, Worsley, was jailed for a minimum of 40 years after he was convicted of murder at the conclusion of that trial, which heard he threw a large petrol bomb into the house through a rear window as the family slept.

His friend Worrall, 27, of Worsley Avenue, Worsley, had thrown a smaller petrol bomb into the house but it had not caused significant damage. He was caged for a minimum 37 years after being convicted of murdering the children.