Ian Simms, the notorious killer of Billinge insurance clerk Helen McCourt, is dead

A notorious murderer who tormented his victim’s family for 34 years about the whereabouts of her body has died.

By Charles Graham
Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 7:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th June 2022, 7:28 am

Former Billinge pub landlord Ian Simms will take the secret of what he did with Helen McCourt’s body in 1988 to his grave.

But her campaigning mother Marie today said she felt relief that he had been “wiped off the earth” and that perhaps other people with knowledge of the killing would now finally have the confidence to come forward with the information she so craves.

Reports say Simms died last Friday at the age of 66.

Ian Simms after he was allowed out from prison on day release

It is understood that no cause of death has yet been given.

Mrs McCourt said: “It’s a huge relief to me knowing that this man has finally been wiped off this earth. He’s got what he deserved.

“I’m hoping now maybe he spoke to ­somebody in prison or maybe one of his friends or family who were perhaps too scared to come forward when he was alive, will do so now.

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Helen McCourt

“I just pray now that somebody may have some details of where he said he had done it.

“It breaks my heart but not just mine but all families who’ve had loved ones taken.

“It’s hard to lose a child through illness, it’s worse when someone deliberately takes her life.”

She added that she lived in fear when he was released from prison with a tag on in 2020.

Murderer Ian Simms - jailed for life for the murder of Helen McCourt - Billinge, 1988,

Insurance clerk Helen was 22 when she vanished on her way home from work on February 9 1988.

Investigations soon led to the door of the George and Dragon on Main Street where Simms was the publican.

Over the coming days and weeks a large amount of forensic evidence was gathered from the pub’s flat, Simms’s car and discarded items – including most of Helen’s clothes and other personal effects – at three locations around the North West.

But despite large-scale searches and subsequent inquiries over the decades by Helen’s surviving family, her body has never been found.

Marie McCourt

Simms was handed a life sentence in 1989 after being convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of Helens abduction and murder.

He always maintained his innocence and thus never disclosed where he hid her body.

Hopes had been raised several times in the intervening years of a breakthrough, not least when permission was granted to open a grave in St Aidan’s Churchyard in Billinge after it was alleged that it had been dug just prior to Helen’s disappearance and her body may have been interred there before the funeral. But again the search drew a blank.

Marie said that Simms should never be released until he gave up his secret.

Her campaigning led to the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Act, dubbed Helen’s Law, being enacted in 2021.

The law makes it harder for killers and paedophiles who hold back information on their victims to receive parole.

Under the legislation, killers could still be released if no longer deemed a risk to the public even if they refuse to disclose information.

But the Parole Board will be legally required to consider whether they have co-operated with inquiries as part of their assessment.

Sadly it came too late to prevent Simms’s release. But his taste of freedom turned out to be brief.