Billinge mum's 11th hour bid to block the release of her daughter's murderer

The mother of Helen McCourt has launched a "last chance" bid to block her unrepentant killer's bid for freedom.

Friday, 31st January 2020, 7:40 am
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 8:45 am
Helen McCourt's body has never been found

Marie McCourt, with the aid of money raised on a GoFundMe page, on Thursday lodged a request at the High Court for a judicial review into the Parole Board's decision to release former Billinge pub landlord Ian Simms from prison after serving almost 32 years behind bars.

Simms, who was unanimously convicted by a Liverpool Crown Court jury for killing 22-year-old insurance clerk Helen McCourt on the night of February 9 1988 despite her body's never having been found, has served more than twice the minimum term stipulated by the trial judge because he has not confessed to his crime and failed to reveal what he did with her remains.

But last year the Parole Board finally decided that Simms was fit to go free, saying that even if he was kept locked up for the rest of his life he was unlikely ever to disclose Helen's final resting place.

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Convicted killer Ian Simms

This outraged the McCourt family and also caused the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to ask that another Parole Board judge re-examine the verdict.

But he too decided that the 63-year-old should be freed.

In the meanwhile though, the McCourts and their friends had been raising money for the eventuality of a judicial review's being needed.

It possibly signals the last chance to prevent Simms's release.

Marie McCourt

Mrs McCourt has long led a campaign for the introduction of a legal clause called Helen's Law which would introduce a "no body, no parole" element to release procedures similar to those already operating in certain Australian states.

Twice it has started through Parliament after receiving tacit Government backing only for it to be shelved due to the calling of general elections.

There is a good chance of its getting through at the third attempt this year but possibly not in time to prevent the very man who triggered the crusade from walking free.

Helen vanished on the way home from work, having alighted from her bus in Billinge. A huge search and police investigation were launched and while Helen's body has never found, lines of inquiry soon led to the George and Dragon pub on Main Street where a large amount of forensic evidence indicative of Helen's being murdered there was found.

Simms caught on camera during a recent day release from prison

It was one of the first cases in British legal history in which DNA samples played a crucial part in the conviction.

Simms has always maintained his innocence.

The Parole Board today confirmed the McCourt case was now "under judicial review".