THE mother of Helen McCourt fears her killer is about to be released without ever revealing what he did with her body.
Marie McCourt, who this week testified at Ian Simms’s latest parole hearing, was dismayed to discover at the 11th hour that it was taking place in a Category C prison, all the murderer’s previous ones having been at higher security jails. This immediately aroused suspicion that he is being readied for an exit from incarceration during which time he has always maintained his innocence.
And due to changes in the law, the former Billinge pub landlord no longer has to prove he is remorseful or rehabilitated - only that he has behaved himself in recent years.
When Simms was jailed in 1989 for the 22-year-old insurance clerk’s killing, he was given life with a minimum term of 16 years. Taking into account the time served on remand before the trial, he has now been behind bars for 11 years longer.
Mrs McCourt, of Standish Avenue, Billinge, faces an agonising wait of up to two weeks to discover what the panel has decided. Two previous hearings were aborted after she had read her impact statement because Simms did not, for reasons never explained to her, did not attend. However, from conversations Mrs McCourt heard as she and husband John left HMP Wymott at Leyland, she does believe that this time the 58-year-old did appear.
One of the many frustrations Mrs McCourt suffers is how the authorities keep victims’ families in the dark about proceedings and, as evidenced by her work with other families through the charity Support After Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM), the lack of support they get in preparing for a killer’s release.
She said: “I am really worried now that Ian Simms is soon going to be back on the streets. All he has to do is behave himself for a couple of years and convince a psychologist that he’s no longer a danger. The fact that the hearing was held at Wymott worries me because it is a lower category of prison from the previous ones he has been held in.
“The trouble is that we are told so little. Everything is geared towards the rights of the criminals. They can have legal representation and be shown evidence for hearings and people like me can’t.
“They are put through all sorts of processes preparing them for release back into the community but nothing is done for us the victims, and in the case of murder, secondary victims. We have instances of criminals let out on day release to specific places and the families aren’t told until afterwards. Imagine what would happen if you chanced to bump into them.
“I fear that he will convince the authorities he is fit to return to society. But I know he is a vengeful man. When I wrote to him in prison begging him to tell us what he did with Helen, his reply was ‘When I get out, I will have justice.’ That is a very important letter evidentially and it frightens me greatly.
“I am now gnawing my fingers, praying and lighting candles as I wait for what could be the worst possible news. He should not be allowed out until he says what he did with Helen and we can give her a proper burial.”
Simms was unanimously convicted of murder in the face of overwhelming forensic evidence. The case presented was that he attacked Helen in his pub, the George and Dragon on Main Street, and then drove her body away in the boot of his car for disposal.