MPs to hear law change bid

Marie McCourt
Marie McCourt

A mum’s bid to prevent her daughter’s killer from being released on parole was being discussed in the House of Commons today.

Marie McCourt, 73, launched Helen’s Law last year after fearing that Ian Simms - who was convicted of killing her daughter Helen in Billinge in 1988 - could be released without ever revealing where her body was hidden.

Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

Since launching a petition last December, more than 343,000 have signed their support for the law on change.org.

Later today, Marie’s MP, Conor McGinn, will present a 10-Minute Bill to fellow MPs in Parliament.

The bill Unlawful Killing (Recovery of Remains) will ask for parole to be denied to killers who refuse to co-operate with police in enabling victims’ bodies to be recovered.

Marie said: “It’s been 28 years since I lost my daughter but the pain will never ease until I can give her the dignity of a funeral.

“Many of those who have signed my petition have told me they are shocked that this law doesn’t already exist.

“To take a life is bad enough. But to then hide the body and refuse to disclose where it can be found is an act of pure evil. They are literally picking up the family of the victim and dropping them into hell.

“With no funeral or grave they will never have closure.

“We are not asking for killers to be locked up forever. All we are asking is that they co-operate with the police and reveal where their victims have been hidden.

“If killers know they will never be released until they do this, surely they be more likely to co-operate and end this torment.”

Marie’s is in close contact with other families experiencing the same ordeal.

“We know of at least 38 families going through this – but there may be many more that we don’t know about.”

At least five families will accompany Marie to the House of Commons.

They include mum of one Sam Gillingham, 48, of Northants, whose desperate search to find the body of her murdered mother Carole Packman, was the subject of a recent TV documentary called The Investigator.

She will also be joined byClaire and Maxine Harrison.

Their sister, and mum of two Jane Harrison, 32, of Highbury, London, disappeared on June 15 1995 – but it took 18 years for her ex-partner, Kevin Doherty, then 57, a cab driver of South Woodford, east London, to be convicted of manslaughter in January 2013.

Sheila and Alan Dolton – parents of Jonathan, 20, who disappeared from his Milton Keynes home in February 2002 - will also attend.

Jonathan’s colleague Stuart Martin, 40, was convicted in December 2004 of Jonathan’s manslaughter and given a seven and a half year prison sentence.

Tracy Richardson whose mum Michelle Gunshon, 38, of Mill Hill, London, was murdered while working in Birmingham in December 2004. In 2012 Martin Stafford, then 44 – a pub glass collector was found guilty of false imprisonment, rape and preventing the burial of a body.

The family of Paul Morson, Liverpool who was killed in 2011 aged 32. Two ex-business partners Raymond Brierley, 62, and John Burns, 36, were given life sentences for his torture and murder in November 2012.

Tragically, both Stuart Martin and Martin Stafford have died – taking their secrets with them. But the families argue that, had Helen’s Law been in place when they were convicted, they might have been compelled to speak.

Marie added: “Our greatest fear is that, like Winnie Johnson, we die before we can find our loved ones. We have to save other families from this hell. I implore MPs to back this Bill.”

Mr McGinn said: “Helen’s Law has huge public support. More than 340,000 people have already signed the petition and the number is growing by the day.

“This proposed law has been already been introduced in some parts of Australia and there is no reason why it could not operate successfully here.

“No one should be forced to endure the anguish that Marie McCourt and her family and the relatives of other victims have suffered.

“This law will hopefully go some way towards helping put right the terrible wrong that has been inflicted on them – and give peace to Marie and other families enduring a similar torment.”