Helen McCourt's mum gives up battle to have her killer put back behind bars

The devastated mother of murder victim Helen McCourt has admitted she is giving up the fight to get her killer sent back to jail.

Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 10:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 2nd September 2020, 10:44 am
Marie McCourt with a picture of daughter Helen

Marie McCourt said she did not have the “energy, stamina nor funds” to contest a ruling by two High Court judges preventing her from challenging, via judicial review, a Parole Board decision to free former pub landlord Ian Simms even though he has never revealed the location of the 22-year-old insurance clerk’s remains since she vanished in 1988.

The 77-year-old Billinge grandmother does have seven days in which to lodge an appeal and has earned “standing” – the right to testify at it – something which was denied her at the initial hearing.

But while she said she would never give up the quest to find her daughter’s remains and hopes that a “no body no parole” clause called Helen’s Law will be given royal assent within weeks and so help other families in similar straits, she has abandoned the crusade to get unrepentant Simms rejailed, even though she had felt liberty would make him even less likely to reveal his dark secret.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Killer Ian Simms is now a free man

In an exclusive interview with the Wigan Post, Mrs McCourt said: “I don’t believe I can take this legal fight much further. It is almost killing me.

“I am very, very disappointed with this week’s ruling but I am in my 78th year, I am not getting any younger and to carry on would be to put my family and everyone else through the wringer again, just as I have been through it.

“I don’t have the energy, the stamina nor the money to keep going.

“But I will never give up my search for Helen, although I recognise that this could be another case like Keith Bennett.”

Mrs McCourt was referring to the one Moors Murder victim whose body has never been found and whose mother, Winnie Johnson, never lived to say her proper farewells.

Lady Justice Macur and Mr Justice Chamberlain, who had considered Mrs McCourt’s judicial review application at a virtual High Court in July, decided that a Parole Board panel decision “involved no arguable public law error”.

Their written ruling added: “The panel were acutely aware of the sensitivities in this case and adopted a careful and balanced approach both to the procedure to be adopted and to the assessment of Simms’ current risk.”

A statement from the Parole Board expressed deep sympathies for the McCourt family but said it was required by law to focus on whether a prisoner’s continued detention remains necessary for the protection of the public.

Helen vanished on her way home from work and Simms was later convicted on a welter of forensic evidence in his flat above the George and Dragon pub, the boot of his car and two other sites in the North West where his and Helen’s possessions were found dumped.

He was released on licence early this year and has always maintained his innocence.