Mum fears daughter’s body won’t be found

Helen McCourt and (below) mum Marie
Helen McCourt and (below) mum Marie

A WIGAN mum has conceded that her murdered daughter’s body may never be discovered.

Marie McCourt was speaking to the Wigan Observer after mourning the death of “kindred spirit” Winnie Johnson.

Marie McCourt and (below) daughter Helen

Marie McCourt and (below) daughter Helen

The mother of Moors Murders victim Keith Bennett succumbed to cancer at the weekend, having spent the last 48 years vainly hoping that the 12-year-old’s resting place would be found.

And as the 25th anniversary of Billinge insurance clerk Helen McCourt’s own disappearance nears, her mother this week made the rare admission that her long-running quest may end like Winnnie’s, although she said she would never give up the fight.

Former landlord of the George and Dragon pub in Billinge, Ian Simms, remains in prison as he continues to protest his innocence despite a weight of evidence against him.

His is a notorious case because he is one of the few people to be convicted of murder in the absence of a body.

Marie, of Standish Avenue, Billinge, said: “I cannot give up hope. It gets a lot more difficult as other people go missing and then are found.

“But I have watched Winnie fight and fight all the way through and at the end of 48 years she still did not get the one thing she dearly wanted.

“And that could be ahead for me. But I cannot shut off the possibility that Helen can be found.

“People do come forward with information, discoveries are made and the prison authorities should be saying to Simms and other people not revealing the whereabouts of bodies that there is no way they will every be released until they say where they are.”

Marie, who still searches for Helen’s remains and is also strongly involved in charities supporting victims of murder and manslaughter, formed a bond with Winnie over the years.

She said that whenever she was invited to take part in interviews in the media about Helen’s disappearance, she would also make sure that Keith was mentioned too, in order to keep their joint predicaments alive.

It was Marie who suggested to Winnie that she hold a memorial service for Keith, something which happened two years ago.

And she bravely told cold case squad police to focus more on finding Keith first rather than Helen because it would have “devastated” Winnie if the latter’s remains were discovered first. Marie also believes that Moors murderer Ian Brady does know where he buried Keith’s remains to this day.

She said: “Killers have retentive memories – it is part of the power they like to wield. He will know where he put Keith even if the terrain will have changed since. Brady is asking to be transferred to an ordinary prison from a secure hospital so that he can starve himself to death. But I honestly believe that he wants the move so he can take control of his own body.

“The authorities should say to him that as long as we don’t know where Keith’s body is, there is no way that can happen.”