Helen’s killer makes new freedom bid

Ian Simms
Ian Simms

THE man at the centre of one of Wigan’s most notorious crimes makes his latest bid for freedom this week.

Ian Simms is due to appear before a parole board to say that he has served more than long enough for the murder of Helen McCourt.

Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

The 22-year-old Billinge insurance clerk vanished in February 1988 and her body has never been found. Simms, landlord of the town’s George and Dragon pub, was arrested amid a welter of damning forensic evidence against him and a jury found him unanimously guilty of murder.

But Simms has always maintained his innocence. That has ensured he has stayed behind bars far longer than most killers because it has prevented the discovery of his victim’s body and shown a total lack of rehabilitation.

However, there are fears among his victim’s family that eventually the authorities will conclude that he has nonetheless been punished enough.

Whether the hearing is completed or not remains to be seen though. Twice in the last three years has mum Marie McCourt attended a prison hearing and, indeed, has read out a victim impact statement, only to discover two weeks after being ushered out after her contribution that Simms never testified and there was an adjournment with no explanations given.

Because a year has elapsed since the last aborted hearing, Mrs McCourt will again be able to testify. Which prison he is currently at has yet to be disclosed to her.

She said: “I am glad they are letting me speak again and I truly hope that it will hit home with the panel that this man should not be released until he admits what he did and tells us where Helen is.”