Parents of the four children who died in Stafford 'gas explosion' arrested for gross negligence manslaughter
Natalie Unitt and her partner, Chris Moulton, escaped the flames with their youngest child after the fire broke out. However, their other four children died in the inferno.
The parents of four young children who tragically died in a "gas explosion" at their family home have been arrested for gross negligence manslaughter. 24-year-old Natalie Unitt and her partner, 28-year-old Chris Moulton, jumped out of the first-floor window with their youngest child, 2-year-old Jack, after the flames broke out in their home on February 5.
The couple's sons - 3-year-old Olly and 6-year-old Keegan - died in the flames along with their sister - 4-year-old Tilly, and Unitt's eldest child from an earlier relationship - 8-year-old Riley. Moulton is thought to have received treatment for the burns and Unitt received treatment for smoke inhalation, according to The Daily Mail. They are still in the hospital but their injuries are not life-threatening.
It is still unknown what caused the fire in the home but some preliminary suggestions have pointed to a "gas explosion", which could have been set off by a faulty boiler. Firefighters, police, and paramedics rushed to the home in Stafford at around 2:40 a.m. on February 5. Witnesses are said to have heard the mother-of-five screaming: "My babies! My babies!" as the flames engulfed the home. 15 firefighters, two paramedic officers, three ambulances, the Trust’s Hazardous Area Response Team, the MERIT trauma team and a BASICS emergency doctor were sent to the property after being called by the fire service.
The Staffordshire Police confirmed on February 9 that the parents have been arrested. A spokesperson for the South Staffordshire Coroner's Court said that the autopsies on the four children have not been completed yet but the file has been passed to the coroner.
The Staffordshire Police said in a statement: "Officers from Staffordshire Police have made two arrests this afternoon following a house fire in Stafford on Tuesday. Following an update from investigators into the probable cause of the fire we have arrested a 24-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man on suspicion of manslaughter by gross negligence."
"The arrests were made at around 1.30pm. The man and woman are in custody. This incident has had a huge impact on the community and we understand there will be confusion and a demand for information. However, we would urge people not to speculate as to what may have happened and appeal for patience as the investigation continues. We will provide further updates as soon as we are able to."
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Rob Barber of the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said on February 8: "Our fire investigation team, working with forensic experts from the police, have been faced with extremely challenging conditions. We will continue to assist the police with their ongoing investigation."
Headteacher Nicola Glover, from Castlechurch Primary School, where three of the children attended, said: "Our entire school community is absolutely devastated by this news. "Riley was a very confident, excitable member of school who came every day full of enthusiasm. He was a caring friend who hated to see anyone hurt or upset and would do his best to help or cheer them up. Riley had a great sense of humor and an infectious giggle. He was a very bright and articulate boy who showed interest in all areas and was always keen to ask lots of questions.
"Tilly was a happy little girl who loved coming to nursery. She was a friendly and caring child who loved to read stories, dress up and paint. Tilly was always proud of her achievements. Olly was a happy, loving boy who loved cuddles. He was always happy to come to nursery and loved to be in the role play area with the dolls. We have put in place support in school for staff and pupils, to help anyone who feels affected. Support from Staffordshire County Council’s Educational Psychologists will also be made available if required. Our sympathies are with the children’s family and friends at this unimaginably difficult time."
Headteacher Kim Ellis, from Marshlands Special School where Keegan was a pupil, said: "Keegan was lively, full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile. He loved school and everyone who worked with him loved him. We were all proud of him and the progress that he had made. It is very hard to accept what has happened. Our school community are understandably devastated and our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We are also putting support in place to help our staff and fellow pupils at this difficult time."