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Mixed memories as blaze house razed
The house at 18 Victory Road in Allenton, Derby, where six children died in a fire set by Mick and Mairead Philpott is prepared for demolition.
Neighbours spoke of bittersweet memories as workers started pulling down a house where two parents set a deadly blaze which killed their children.
Demolition of the fire-damaged semi-detached house in Victory Road, Derby, began just after 8am in a clearance operation expected to last several days.
As a mechanical digger started pulling down the former family home brick by brick, neighbours welcomed the move, although for some looking on it brought back memories of happier times, painful now to recount.
Mick and Mairead Philpott were jailed in April, along with their friend Paul Mosley, after being convicted of killing the couple's six children in the petrol-fuelled blaze in Allenton.
Jade Philpott, 10, and her brothers John, nine, Jack, eight, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, died in the blaze in May 2012. Duwayne, 13, died days later in hospital.
Among those watching the digger pull the property apart was 65-year-old Peggy Perry-Tarrant, whose mother and father had lived in the house years before the Philpotts.
She recalled those happier times and said it was "sad to see it coming down" but agreed it was the right thing to do.
"There's so many good memories there for our family, and it's ended in such a bad way," she said.
"With every wall they pull down, it brings up another memory for each room coming to mind.
"We all think it's the right thing to do to take it down and when we walk on by we'll remember those kids and what happened there, and they'll never be forgotten.
"But then someone will build a new house for people to live in, and there'll be happy memories again."
As she spoke she paused to look at the rubble, then took a photograph to send to her sister who now lives in Essex.
"It hurts to watch it - it's heartache, but it's the right thing to do," she said.
"We'll have new life, new kids living there, and new memories."
Workmen are flattening 18 Victory Road, the scene of the deadly blaze, and neighbouring property number 20, said Daniel Walsh, managing director of Derby Demolition Ltd.
He said: "It's a bit emotional, especially for the area.
"I think most of them (the neighbours) will be glad to see it gone.
"I think it's really sad what's happened and once it's gone it'll bring some sort of closure to it."
He said it will take two days to fully demolish the properties, then work will start to clear the rubble.
Other than workmen and members of the media, there were only a handful of witnesses to the start of the demolition with a few brief glances by passing schoolchildren and commuters walking to work.
One neighbour, a woman who lives opposite but declined to be named, said it was "time it happened".
"I'll be glad when it's gone because it's gone on so long," she said.
"I knew the children, you see.
"It's become a monument for the wrong reasons."
Another neighbour, who lives next door to number 18 but did not want to give her name, said: "We want it all done and dusted.
"We want it cleared, then we can all get on with our lives.
As she looked on, she added: "It gives me a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach just watching it."
An aunt of the children also turned up to witness the demolition.
Drawing on a cigarette and staring intently at the work going on, she said: "My niece, nephew and godson were in that house." She declined to comment further.
Last week, as workmen put up scaffolding around both vacant houses, Mairead Philpott's mother, Vera Duffy, briefly visited the scene to see the work going on.
The 55-year-old said: "I'm here just to see it.
"The children will be resting in peace now."
Derby City Council said demolition is likely to take up to two weeks, beginning with the outbuildings and roofing structures.
New social housing is expected to be built on the site in due course.
Derby Demolition Ltd, John L Morgan & Sons, Maxplant Ltd and Ward Recycling have each agreed to donate their fee for the demolition work to Derbyshire Children's Holiday Centre in Skegness, which provides disadvantaged local children with holidays in the Lincolnshire resort.
Councillor Baggy Shanker, cabinet member for housing at Derby City Council, said: "I am pleased that the planned demolition of the properties on Victory Road has been completed safely and with the minimum of disruption to local people.
"I look forward to the new build going ahead, subject to planning permission being approved, so that we can provide much needed homes for the local community