Chilling CCTV footage today revealed the moment the killers of four children fled after petrol bombing their house as they slept inside.
Zak Bolland, 23, his 20-year-old girlfriend Courtney Brierley and David Worrall, 26, carried out the attack as part of a petty feud with the children’s big brother.
Separate footage also showed the killers laughing and joking as they bought crates of beer and a jerry can just 20 minutes before their attack in Walkden, Manchester.
CCTV of Zak Bolland buying petrol from a Texaco fuel station ahead of the arson attack
Bolland’s co-accused David Worrall accompanies him on the purchase, with Brierley behind
They looked as if they had not a care in the world as they were pictured by an in-store camera snapping up two boxes of Budweiser beer at an off-licence in the city.
The group appeared to shared a joke with staff and fellow customers before an unsuspecting cashier even gave Worrall a friendly ‘fist bump’ as they left the store.
But within minutes, two of the bottles had been turned into deadly molotov cocktails to firebomb the family home of Kyle Pearson who had been in a feud with Bolland.
CCTV images captured Bolland and Worrall filling up a petrol can at a Texaco fuel station before arriving at teenager Pearson’s home in Walkden.
Two of the beer bottles were turned into deadly molotov cocktails to firebomb the family home of teenager Kyle Pearson who had been engaged in a petty feud with Bolland
Brandon, eight, Lacie, seven, and Lia, three, (pictured together) died after the fire in Walkden
Fire damage to the property in Walkden, Greater Manchester, where the siblings died last year
Kyle, 16, managed to escape out of an upstairs window but his four siblings perished
Relatives of the victims cried ‘yes’ as the verdicts were returned. Pictured is the bathroom
The two men then removed a fence panel from the garden of the Pearsons’ home, smashed a kitchen window and tossed in two lit petrol bombs.
Man took part in arson attack over row with people he didn’t know
David Worrall was shaking like a leaf when he stepped out of the shower at his mother’s house to find police waiting to arrest him for murder.
The father-of-one had got involved in a fatal arson attack over a row he had no involvement in with people he did not even know.
Separated from the mother of his child, he cried that he was never going to see his daughter again if he went to jail.
The 25-year-old mumbled his way through his evidence, occasionally tearful, saying he knew nothing of a plan to set fire to the house.
He did not simply ‘disappear into the night’ after petrol was purchased and the bombs prepared, he said, because it was too far to walk the three miles home to his mother’s house in Coronation Street in Salford.
‘It would’ve taken me an hour and a half,’ he complained – so he went along with Zak Bolland instead.
Worrall had previously failed to complete a community order for drink-driving as he ‘went on the sick’ and claimed benefits, he told the jury at Manchester Crown Court.
He denied prosecution claims that he helped prepare the petrol bombs and that he smashed Michelle Pearson’s kitchen window with an axe to throw in the first petrol bomb.
He told the jury he thought they were going to set fire to the bins.
But you do not need a petrol bomb to set fire to bins – and there were no bins at the back of the Mrs Pearson’s house, the jury heard.
Like Bolland, he had been drinking and snorting cocaine that night.
Worrall said he ‘just stood there’ and was ‘dragged along’ by Bolland and ran off when his co-accused smashed the window and lit the first bottle.
In the weeks and months before the fire, Worrall had strangled another friend, pinning his victim to a settee by the throat before hitting a woman friend’s car with a machete.
And twice during rows on Facebook he threatened to ‘blow up’ people’s homes.
He lied to police after his arrest and told officers he was scared of being labelled a ‘grass’.
A police officer responded: ‘What’s being a grass when four kids are dead?’
One landed near the stairs, blocking the only exit to the ground floor and trapped the occupants as they lay asleep inside.
Kyle, 16, managed to escape out of an upstairs window but his siblings Demi Pearson, 15, her brother Brandon, eight, and sister Lacie, seven, sleeping in a front bedroom, perished in the flames.
Younger sister Lia, aged three, was rescued from the house but died in hospital two days later.
Their mother Michelle Pearson, 36, who was sleeping in the same room as Lia escaped the blaze but was overheard screaming ‘Not the kids! Not my kids!’ as the fire engulfed the three bedroom mid-terrace house.
She subsequently collapsed into a six month coma and only learnt of her children’s deaths last month. She remains seriously ill in hospital.
Today chilling footage of the killers emerged as Bolland and Worrall were both found guilty of four charges of murder.
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, Bolland’s girlfriend at the time, 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.
In the dock, Worrall blinked hard and put his head down, Worrall sat looking straight ahead crying silently, while Brierley also wiped away tears.
They will be sentenced at 3.45pm.
Kyle saw the light from Demi’s mobile phone at the window before she coughed in the thick smoke then appeared to fall away from the window.
CCTV shown to the jury showed Bolland and Worrall at the address at 4.55am for one minute and five seconds.
The cameras recorded a flash then a larger second one from the petrol bombs, before they fled.
Neighbours ran out to help but were beaten back by the heat and flames as multiple 999 calls were made.
Three fire engines scrambled to the scene, the first arriving at 5.04am, with firefighters in breathing apparatus finding Brandon face down on his bedroom floor, as if trying to crawl out, and Lacie directly behind him, suggesting she was following her brother to try to escape.
A image taken by firefighters of the property ablaze in Walkden on December 11 last year
Pictured is one of the petrol bombs used in the attack which killed four children in their sleep
Petrol cans used in the attack. Worrall, Bolland and Brierley had been on trial for murder
Bolland murdered four children by fire-bombing their home and gloated when police decided to take no further action in messages to girlfriend Brierley (pictured together) and friends
Demi was found on a bunk bed, hands stretched out to the open window, and Lia was found in the bath.
Arson killer’s history of violence to women and ‘fixation with fire’
Zak Bolland had a history of violence against women and an apparent fixation with fire before he killed four children in a petrol bomb attack.
He stalked the estates around Walkden in a black hoodie, kept a pit bull-type dog, did not have a job but had money for drink and drugs, and habitually carried a large machete with an 18in blade down his tracksuit bottoms, ‘for protection’, he told the jury.
In September 2014 he grabbed a female victim by the hair and dragged her across a street and was convicted of battery.
Two years later he punched another woman, grabbed her throat and threatened her with a hammer. Again he was convicted of battery.
He also made a threat to burn down the house of a relative of the victim.
When a one-time ally, who later became an enemy, came under threat from a notorious Salford gang known as the A Team, Bolland advised him: ‘We should burn them out if they get out of cars, don’t give them a chance, burn them.’
Bolland lived at home with his mother – who worked at Salford Royal Hospital, where his victims were taken – along with his stepfather, two of his three brothers and his girlfriend Courtney Brierley.
He had known Michelle Pearson since he was six, had been in her home and knew her children.
During previous attacks on her house, and on the night of the fatal fire, he admitted being high on drink and cocaine, which Brierley told the court made him more aggressive and paranoid.
He would carry on arguments through Facebook and text messages, winding himself up as the insults continued.
Bolland thought nothing of calling Mrs Pearson, a mother of six, a ‘rat’ and a ‘scruff’ – or breaking her windows, causing her children to run upstairs in terror.
He showed no emotion in the witness box, except to say he found it difficult to accept ‘what had happened’.
He suggested the fire-bombing was a ‘spur of the moment’ idea thought up by David Worrall – but he had used fire just two days before the fatal attack to torch Mrs Pearson’s wheelie bin.
Brierley claimed her ex would lock her in their bedroom, hide her clothes, obsessively monitor her calls and social media, and use violence to enforce his rules.
He gave her a black eye and her mother, who ‘despised’ him, put the photo on Facebook and it was shared thousands of times.
After his arrest he wrote to Brierley five times from prison, telling her it was him and her ‘against the world’, and that he loved her and wanted to marry her so she could have his babies.
He wanted her as an alibi – to back up his claim that he thought the house was empty – but she did not reply and it failed.
‘You would throw anyone to the wolves if it helps you, you will tell any lie to save yourself and you will sacrifice anyone who gets in your way,’ Andrew Hall QC, defending Brierley, told him.
As firemen battled the heat, smoke and flames to bring them out, a team of 15 paramedics worked on the mother and her children laid out on the snow-covered street.
Bolland and Kyle had been friends until the accused’s Peugeot car was set on fire and his house windows smashed, around November 25 last year, about two weeks before the fatal attack, and he blamed the teenager.
The defendant demanded £500, sending harassing text messages, one demanding: ‘Fire letter box I want my my £500.’
Bolland threatened to fire bomb Mrs Pearson’s home, leading her to call police on November 26, and the fire service fitted a letter box cover.
But due to an ‘apparent misunderstanding’ police took no action against Bolland for smashing windows at Mrs Pearson’s home – and days later he was back gloating that he had escaped police action and taunting her with shouts of ‘Grass!’
Mrs Pearson again called police and asked for a restraining order, but two days before her children were murdered her bin was set on fire and the word ‘Grass’ spray painted on her house.
Hours before the attack, Bolland and Worrall spent the night drinking before both made their first visit to Jackson Street around half past midnight on December 11, about four hours before the fire.
Worrall attacked the front door with a metal pole before Bolland threatened he would ‘Kill ’em all’, before they left.
Police arrived and took a statement from Mrs Pearson, one officer checking on the youngsters upstairs, who were asleep.
Back at his mother’s house two minutes’ walk away, Bolland and Worrall became more aggressive as they snorted cocaine and drank lager before Bolland said: ‘Shall we do it?’ and Worrall replied: ‘Yeah, I’ll do it.’
Arming themselves with an axe and a machete they got a frightened friend, Abigail Toone, to drive them to a Tesco garage for the petrol to be used in the attack.
Ms Toone drove them back to Bolland’s home, where the two men went inside, emerging a few minutes later with the bottles.
Brierley gave the driver directions to an alley near the Pearson home where she told her boyfriend: ‘Do it quick Zak, hurry up,’ as the two men got out with the bottles.
Bolland and Brierley were arrested at around 6pm on the day of the fire, after contacting police, walking hand-in-hand to the officers who arrived to arrest them.
Worrall was arrested, ‘shaking profusely’, the day after as he stepped out of the shower at his mother’s house on Coronation Street, Salford.
Bolland admitted throwing the second petrol bomb but said he intended only to damage the house which he thought was not occupied.
‘I heard like a big whoosh. I didn’t look back,’ he told the jury.
He blamed Mrs Pearson’s sons for an earlier attempt to torch his car, smash his windows and set fire to his mother’s home.
Worrall said he thought they were only going to set fire to wheelie bins and denied throwing a petrol bomb.
Demi Pearson, 15, also died in the house fire in Walkden on December 11 last year
Mother Michelle Pearson (left) is still seriously ill after she survived the fire, but it killed her young daughter Lacie, seven (right)
Four people died in the fire but three more survived by jumping from windows or being dragged out of the burning building
The arsonists picked up two boxes of Budweiser at an off-licence in the city before the attack
A smashed window and slashed blind are pictured at the house in Greater Manchester
Brierley said she did not know the two men had petrol bombs and claims Bolland had a ‘controlling influence’ over her during their ‘toxic’ relationship.
Woman who played the victim had string of assault convictions
Courtney Brierley portrayed herself as a victim of domestic violence and ignorant of her boyfriend’s plans to firebomb the Pearson household.
But she was not averse to using violence herself.
The 20-year-old had a string of convictions for threatening behaviour, street robbery and battery.
While on holiday in Wales in 2014, she head-butted and punched another woman to the ground.
When she was arrested, it needed five people to restrain her.
One police officer said Brierley was ‘the most violent person I have ever had to deal with in custody’.
In WhatsApp messages with Zak Bolland in February 2017, Brierley told her boyfriend of her anger at another person, saying: ‘I wish I could set the house on fire and lock all the doors and windows and watch them burn alive.’
Her parents split and she had been living at home in Walkden, Greater Manchester, with her mother, stepfather and two younger brothers and two younger sisters.
She met Bolland at a party and had been seeing him for about a year before the petrol bomb attack.
Like Bolland she did not have a job but did enjoy drinking and drugs and admitted she could sometimes get ‘mouthy’.
Brierley said the relationship turned ‘toxic’ but she loved Bolland, who was her first boyfriend.
She claimed he would not let her speak to her family, return home or contact other male friends, was obsessive and possessive and often violent, especially after drinking and taking drugs.
He also broke her iPhone and deleted her Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram accounts.
He gave her a black eye and her mother put it on Facebook, where it was shared thousands of time.
‘My mum hated him and he hated her,’ Brierley told the jury, adding that she still forgave Bolland ‘many times’.
On the night of the fire, she asked her mother if she could go home.
‘Not until you leave him, Courtney,’ her mother replied.
She told the jury she played no part in any plan to fire-bomb Michelle Pearson’s home.
As Bolland set off, Brierley told him: ‘Be quick, Zak, don’t take ages’ – but she told the jury she only thought the target was to be the wheelie bins.
She did not reply to Bolland’s love letters sent from prison while both were on remand, and refused to provide an alibi.
But she was accused in court of being ‘economical with the truth’ – giving a distorted picture to lessen her culpability for the fire-bombing.
Mrs Pearson is still ‘very, very poorly’ and there is a ‘serious risk’ she may not survive if she catches an infection to her ‘dreadful’ burns.
Bolland who showed no emotion was also convicted of three charges of attempted murder whilst Bolland was found guilty of three alternative charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm with intent.
Relatives of the victims cried ‘yes’ as the unanimous verdicts were returned following three days of deliberation. The killers will be sentenced later.
Manchester Crown Court heard Bolland and Kyle had once been friends but fell out in November last year after the older man’s car was set on fire.
He blamed Kyle for the blaze and a series of ‘tit-for-tat’ vandal attacks occurred at their respective family homes.
The feud escalated two weeks before the murders when Kyle’s mother made a statement to police after Bolland sent her a text saying: ‘You owe me five ton today no matter what, you bunch of rats.’
In a series of messages to Brierley he said: ‘I’m wanted now babe. She’s grassed me up. The feds just been.
‘Big mistake this innit. Just going to get interviewed and get bail and smack the grass.’
But after officers decided to take no further action due to a ‘misunderstanding’ Bolland texted a friend saying: ‘Got NFA. Ha ha ha. Michelle proper put a statement in. I’m buzzing. She’s a stupid c*** and I’m going to let everyone know she’s a grass.’
A cover was fitted on Mrs Pearson’s letter box to prevent petrol being poured through and set alight – but she also asked officials to be moved because she ‘no longer felt safe’ in her home.
But four hours before the arson attack on December 11, Bolland hammered on the front door of the Pearson’s home, shouting: ‘All your family’s getting it, they’re all gonna die. I’ll kill them all.’
Police assured Mrs Pearson officers would drive past the house every hour but in the meantime Bolland and Worrall then went to the local garage with a petrol can, buying £1.50 of petrol.
They used the fuel to fill two glass beer bottles and returned with Brierley in a Fiat Punto car to the Pearsons’ home.
Next door neighbour Karen Kormoss told the jury: ‘I could hear Michelle shouting, ‘Not the children. Not the kids.’
‘I could hear her voice, ‘Not my kids. It happened in two minutes. The windows blown out and the flames coming out of both the upstairs and downstairs. It was gone. Just smoke.’
Another neighbour Tony Holdsworth said he saw flames ‘coming out like a jet’ from the windows of the house and saw Kyle and a 17-year old friend ‘going absolutely crazy’ outside pleading for the children to be rescued.
Mr Holdsworth kicked in the front door in but was beaten back by the flames and heat.
Bolland admitted arson but denied murder claiming he thought no one was at home. Brierley and Worrall also of Walkden denied all then charges.
Timeline: Key events leading up to deaths of four children in house fire
The death of four children was the culmination of a series of tit-for-tat attacks during the “petty” feud between ak Bolland and Kyle Pearson over a three week period late last year. Here are the key events:
- November 25: Zak Bolland’s Peugeot car is set on fire. He claims his house on Blackleach Drive, Walkden was also targeted with petrol but he put out the flames and blames Kyle Pearson. He demands money for the damage, texting Pearson’s mother Michelle Pearson: “Fire letter box I want my £500.”
- November 26: Around 9am Bolland uses a hammer to smash the front windows and panes of glass in the front door of Mrs Pearson’s home at 8 Jackson Street, and she calls police.
- Later that day Kyle Pearson, his brother Lewis, and friends Bobby Harris and Luke Fleming, all armed with clubs and hammers, smash windows at Bolland’s mother’s home. Bolland, Courtney Brierley and his brothers clash with the Pearsons in the street.
- Police attend Mrs Pearson’s home in the evening after Bolland sends a text to Kyle threatening to petrol bomb the house.
- November 28: Fire service attends to fit a letter box cover to 8 Jackson Street, to prevent accelerants being poured inside and set alight.
- December 1: Bolland and Brierley go to the Pearson house, taunting Mrs Pearson that Bolland had been “NFA’d” – escaped police action for breaking her windows – and he makes further threats. She calls police, gives a statement and asks for a restraining order on Bolland.
- December 9: Shortly before 6am Mrs Pearson’s wheelie bin is set on fire and “Grass” spray painted on her house by Bolland. Police attend and she names Bolland as the likely culprit.
- December 10: Bolland and Brierley are joined by David Worrall and others in the evening, buying two cases of Budweiser from a local shop at 10.27pm.
- December 11: At 0.40am Bolland, Worrall and two others go to Jackson Street “kicking off”, bashing the door and Worrall threatening to “Kill ’em all” before returning to Bolland’s house.
- Police attend and take a statement from Mrs Pearson, who wants Bolland arrested, before the officers leave 90 minutes later.
- 3.30am Bolland, Brierley and Worrall buy a case of Stella lager and a bottle of wine from a local garage and return home to Bolland’s house.
- 4.33am Bolland and Worrall pay £1.50 for 1.23 litres of unleaded petrol from a local garage, put in a green petrol can.
- 4.54am Bolland and Worral lift a garden fence panel at the back of 8 Jackson Street. Seconds later the flares of two petrol bombs are caught on a local CCTV camera.
- 5.04am The first of three fire engines arrive and enter the house, which is already well ablaze, to rescue the occupants.
- 5.47am Brandon Pearson declared dead in hospital.
- 6.02am Lacie Pearson declared dead in hospital.
- 7.10am Demi Pearson declared dead at the scene.
- 5.56pm Bolland and Brierley arrested by police.
- December 12: Worrall arrested.
- December 13: Life support turned off for Lia Pearson, aged three, at 2.30pm.
How tragic mother called police five times over threats in the two weeks before her children died
Michelle Pearson had called police on at least five occasions in the two weeks before her children died, as Zak Bolland was threatening to use fire to harm her family.
Her home of 14 years was attacked, its windows and doors smashed, graffiti sprayed on the walls and her wheelie bin set on fire by Bolland.
Each time police attended, each time she named Bolland as the culprit.
Emergency services at the scene of the fire in Greater Manchester on December 11 last year
She saw at least six different officers, statements were made, risk referral forms completed, fire service personnel carried out two ‘safe and well’ visits, the family social worker was informed, social services alerted and she begged her landlord, housing association City West, to move her.
On one occasion police even went as far as arresting Zak Bolland.
On two other occasions, after he set her bin on fire two days before the fatal fire, and banged on her door threatening to ‘kill ’em all’ four hours before he torched the house, he was not held by police.
Bolland lived just over 300 yards from Mrs Pearson’s home.
An investigation of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is suspended pending the outcome of the trial.
Forensic officers at the scene of the house fire in Walkden last December
Mrs Pearson, 36, told police she was willing to go to court to support Bolland’s prosecution when he first smashed her windows, and made a statement to that effect.
But after Bolland sent a text threatening to petrol bomb her home, two weeks before the fatal fire, she called police again and this time she told officers she suffered from anxiety and did not wish to attend court and asked about a restraining order.
Another officer explained she would not have to go to court in person, a statement would do, but due to an ‘apparent misunderstanding’ a decision was taken for Bolland to be ‘NFA’d’ – no further action – for smashing her windows.
She only found out when he came to her home gloating and calling her a ‘Grass’ and a ‘Rat’ and the decision left her ‘horrified’.
Mrs Pearson told her ‘useless’ housing provider, City West, she did not feel safe at home with five children and wanted out.
City West said they never received any request for a move, believed to have been handled by Salford City Council who said, ‘no comment’, but that a Serious Case Review is under way.
Police were at Mrs Pearson’s house to take a statement on the night of the fire after Bolland had been round ‘kicking off’. Mrs Pearson was described as beinG ‘fed up, angry, miffed off’.
It is not clear if officers immediately actively sought out Bolland, who was at home at the time, a couple of minutes’ walk away, drinking lager and snorting cocaine.
Two hours after police had taken another statement from Mrs Pearson and left her home, Bolland returned to Jackson Street again, armed with two petrol bombs.