Marie McCourt ‘sick with grief’ as killer enjoys days out of jail

A Wigan mum has spoken of her “utter shock and dismay” after discovering that her daughter’s unrepentant killer will be back on the streets within days.


Marie McCourt said she was sick with grief on learning that Ian Simms is to be given two escorted town visits by the prison service before the end of the month.

Ian Simms and Marie McCourt

Ian Simms and Marie McCourt

And if they go without incident, she has been told that he could then have two further town visits next month without any escort at all.

The news came just as Marie thought she was getting somewhere with the introduction of Helen’s Law: named after her daughter whom Simms killed at his Billinge pub in 1988.

As is the case in some Australian territories, it would mean that killers will remain behind bars unless they reveal the whereabouts of their victims’ bodies.

For while Simms was unanimously found guilty of the murder of 22-year-old insurance clerk Helen McCourt by a Liverpool Crown Court jury, her body has never been found, he has never admitted to the crime and thus has never disclosed what he did with her remains.

It is the reason why the 61-year-old former landlord of the George and Dragon has been in prison for far longer than he might otherwise have been.

But of late he has been moved to a category D prison which is another step towards freedom.

Ministers have told Marie that guidelines have been sent to the Parole Board to not release any convicts who might be affected by Helen’s Law until Parliament had decided to implement it or not.

But that does not stop the Prison Service, which is independent from the Parole Board, from allowing prisoners out.

Marie said: “I found out about his escorted and unescorted visits several days ago but I was so shocked, dismayed and sick with grief that I couldn’t speak about it.

“It is completely out of order. Far too early.

“How can he possibly be deemed fit to rejoin society?

“The thought of him being released to dance on my daughter’s secret grave tears me apart.”

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn, who has championed Helen’s Law, stood up in Parliament on hearing the news and asked Justice Secretary David Gauke, with whom Marie recently held talks, whether it was right to cause Marie and other families in similar situations such distress.

He also urged the minister to fast-track Helen’s Law.

If Mr Gauke gave a reply it was drowned out by a chorus of “hear hears.”