Family anger at new parole confusion

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

ANOTHER agonising wait for news has ended in anger for the family of murdered Helen McCourt.

For the second time in seven months they were kept in the dark about the cancellation of her killer’s parole hearing – this time only discovering there would be no verdict after more than three weeks.

No reason has been given to Marie McCourt and her relatives as to why former Billinge pub landlord Ian Simms again failed to testify before the panel at Leyland’s Garth Prison where he is currently incarcerated.

Mrs McCourt today said it simply wasn’t right that victims’ relatives should be “strung along for weeks on end” and deserved more of an explanation as to what was going on.

Simms has been behind bars for a quarter of a century, having been convicted of Helen’s murder despite her body’s never having been found.

There was plenty of other evidence against Simms though, and all attempts at getting the conviction overturned and/or bidding for release have so far failed and he remains in high security conditions.

However, he is entitled to regular parole hearings. Mrs McCourt gave evidence at one last October and was told to wait a fortnight for the result, on the understanding that Simms would be giving his evidence later the same day. But then after two weeks she was told he had never appeared and no explanation was offered as to why this was so nor why she had had to suffer “two weeks of needless stress” to discover nothing had happened.

Everything was postponed until April when Mrs McCourt was only allowed to send an addendum to her original statement regarding the recent fruitless exhumation of a grave at St Aidan’s Church, Billinge for Helen’s body.

This inability to re-testify itself angered Mrs McCourt because it meant that Simms’s evidence would be fresher in the parold panel’s memory than hers from several months earlier.

She was again told to wait two weeks to discover the board’s findings, but that deadline came and went.

Then more than three weeks after the supposed latest hearing she was informed by a phone call that once more Simms had not given evidence.

No new date has yet been set.

Mrs McCourt said: “We cannot keep going on like this. Once again victims’ families are having the system skewed against them.

“We are strung along for weeks on end waiting for an important result only to be told that nothing actually happened and we have to go through the whole process again.

“This is unbelievably stressful and unfair.

“Why couldn’t someone have rung me on the day to say that Simms hadn’t turned up? It’s bad enough the authorities’ not telling us why it keeps being postponed.

“It could be a while now before it reconvenes, perhaps several months’ time.”