loss which led me to lend support

A MOTHER'S traumatic shock at the murder of her daughter and the life-changing steps she has taken since are to be explored in a TV documentary.

Marie McCourt will this week appear on an episode of the BBC’s Inside Out series to describe how she has coped with the loss of Helen 20 years ago, and how it inspired her to help hundreds of other families bereaved in the most terrible circumstances.

The Billinge mother has had an added challenge in coming-to-terms with the tragedy, because the 22-year-old’s body has never been found.

For the film, Mrs McCourt revisited the clay pits and canal bank near Hollins Green where so much of the damning evidence that snared killer Ian Simms was found.

Helen vanished on the way home from work on February 9 1988. The following day blood and mud-stained clothing and towels belonging to George and Dragon landlord Simms were found dumped near the waterway.

Even in those days, when DNA technology was less advanced, scientists concluded there was only a one in 168,000 chance that the blood did not belong to a child of Marie.

When Simms more recently took his case to the Criminal Cases Review Board to get the samples re-tested, the probability of its not being Helen’s blood rocketed to around 9.5 million to one. Dog walker Eric Bannister also told the trial at the time he had seen Simms’s car backed up to the water’s edge at Hollins Green. Three weeks later a boy out shooting rats found Helen’s handbag further along the towpath.

The area was sealed off and, after a fingertip search, an electric flex, believed to be the murder weapon, was found with Helen’s hair in the knot and teeth marks from Simms’ dog in the cord itself.

Mrs McCourt has returned to these places before, as she and family and friends have continued their search for Helen’s remains. But while she would of course welcome any new leads from the documentary she is equally keen to show there can be life after such an awful event.

She said: “Helen’s death led to my involvement in Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) which has helped some 400 families.

“I want to show there can be positivity. The programme will show what it is like to be given the news but also how you start rebuilding after the media and the attention have gone.

“Your life does not end, you can go forward but it is something you need to work at, otherwise you succumb to a form of depression and shut yourself away from everyone.

“Other people need you and there is work to be done. SAMM is testament to that.”

The SAMM Merseyside helpline can be called on 0151 207 6767. Inside Out is due to be shown at 7.30pm on Friday on BBC1.