A mother’s anguish

Marie McCourt
Marie McCourt

THE family of murdered Helen McCourt was dealt a devastating blow last night as police declared that the search of a churchyard grave for her body had drawn a blank.

Earlier in the day the victim’s mum, Marie, had said that all her hope was riding on this “best chance” of recovering her daughter’s remains more than 25 years after she disappeared.

But after 18 hours of excavation, sifting and the delicate removal of coffins from a family plot at St Aidan’s, Billinge, officers reported that nothing unexpected had been found.

Ian Simms, then landlord of the George and Dragon in Main Street, Billinge, was jailed for life for Marie’s murder, but has always refused to reveal the location of the body.

Marie, who has never given up hope of finding her daughter’s remains, said last night that she was “gutted”.

She added: “I had really hoped that this was the breakthrough that we had so long been waiting for.

“I had been thinking that it would mean no more listening out for news reports every time a body is found, and no more searching.

“But it was not to be and now we have to pick ourselves up and start looking again. To give in would be to give Ian Simms another victim.

“At least the family of those whose grave was disturbed can now have peace.”