A mother and father have been arrested for manslaughter by gross negligence after a house fire that left four children dead.
Natalie Unitt and Chris Moulton were arrested on Friday at about 1.30pm and were held in custody. A local official confirmed their identities to the Guardian after police said that a 24-year-old woman and a 28-year-old man had been arrested.
The fire broke out at the semi-detached property at about 2.40am on Tuesday, killing siblings Riley Holt, aged eight, Keegan Unitt, six, Tilly Rose Unitt, four, and Olly Unitt, three.
Olly, Keegan and Tilly were the couple’s children together, while Riley was Unitt’s child from a previous relationship.
Unitt and Moulton escaped from a first-floor window with their fourth child, Jack. They were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
The police statement said: “Officers from Staffordshire police have made two arrests this afternoon following a house fire in Stafford on Tuesday … This incident has had a huge impact on the community and we understand there will be confusion and a demand for information.”
However, the police urged people not to speculate as to what might have happened and appealed for patience as the investigation continued. “We will provide further updates as soon as we are able to,” they said.
When the news of the deaths broke, Nicola Glover, the acting headteacher at Castlechurch primary school, which some of the children attended, said the school community was “absolutely devastated” and paid tribute to the children.
She described Riley as confident, excitable and a caring friend: “[He] hated to see anyone hurt or upset and would do his best to help or cheer them up,” she said. “Riley had a great sense of humour and an infectious giggle.
Glover said 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.” And she described three-year-old Olly as a happy and loving boy.
Kim Ellis, the headteacher at Marshlands special school where Keegan was a pupil, described him as lively and full of mischief. “[He had] a really endearing smile,” she said. “He loved school and everyone who worked with him loved him.”