Billinge murder victim’s mother behind Helen’s Law to be honoured at Buckingham Palace

The murder victim’s mother from Billinge who campaigned to bring in Helen’s Law is set to be honoured at Buckingham Palace today (November 8).
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Marie McCourt, the mother of 22-year-old Helen McCourt – who was murdered after vanishing near their home in February 1988 – will be made an MBE for services to the families of murdered victims.

Local pub landlord Ian Simms was handed a life sentence in 1989 for Helen’s murder despite her body never being found, and he was released in 2020 before his death in 2022.

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Marie McCourt with a pictured of her daughter Helen McCourtMarie McCourt with a pictured of her daughter Helen McCourt
Marie McCourt with a pictured of her daughter Helen McCourt
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He always maintained his innocence, despite never disclosing where he hid Helen’s body.

Following her daughter’s death, Mrs McCourt’s campaigning led to the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Act, dubbed Helen’s Law, being enacted in 2021 – which made it harder for killers and paedophiles who hold back information on their victims to receive parole.

While her efforts were successful, the law came too late to thwart Simms’s bid for release from prison but has had successes since.

Mrs McCourt, 80, has no idea who nominated her for the MBE in the King’s new year honours last December but said she was “very grateful” to them.

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She told Wigan Today: “It was a big surprise. I have been trying to get Helen’s Law and I have finally got it, so I was just really pleased with that and that was that as far as I was concerned.

"When I found out about this award, I didn’t know what to say.”

Mrs McCourt said she hoped Helen and other relatives would be “up there” having a party to celebrate.

She added: “I think, more than anything, she would be very happy that we now have Helen’s Law and hopefully we can take it along on other steps as well, to tighten things up for killers.

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“All these years I’ve done – it’s nice to see people be given these awards… who have had to do things which have hurt them so much because of the reasons why they want to make sure our laws are right and correct."

Among those also being honoured today are the former Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy Sir Terry Waite - who spent almost five years in captivity after being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Lebanon - for services to charity.