Mum silenced on killer’s plea

Ian Simms and (below) Helen McCourt
Ian Simms and (below) Helen McCourt

A NOTORIOUS Wigan killer will make his latest bid for freedom on Monday.

And the mother of his victim is being denied a new chance to speak against him.

Helen McCourt

Helen McCourt

It is a quarter of a century since Ian Simms was jailed for the murder of 22-year-old Billinge insurance clerk Helen McCourt.

But Simms, who was convicted on overwhelming evidence that he battered and strangled Helen in the George and Dragon in Main Street then disposed of her remains elsewhere, is still entitled to regular parole hearings.

His latest - at which he was expected to plead entitlement to a downgrading to a lower security category of prison as a prelude to release - was due to take place last October.

Indeed Helen’s mum Marie attended a session at Leyland’s Garth Prison and read out a prepared statement, in Simms’s absence, explaining to the panel the pain she was still being caused by his refusal to disclose her daughter’s final resting place.

Believing that Simms would give his side later the same day, she left and was told to expect a ruling within a fortnight.

Exactly two weeks of anxious waiting later though, Mrs McCourt was shocked and angered to be told that Simms - for reasons still not to this day revealed - did not testify and that the hearing would only resume this March at the earliest.

Now she has been notified that Simms will appear before the panel - presumably at Garth if he remains a prisoner there - after the weekend.

Mrs McCourt has been anxious to retestify, particularly as events took a dramatic turn soon after the aborted hearing when police exhumed a grave at St Aidan’s Church, Billinge. They had been acting on a credible tip-off that Simms had put Helen’s body in it on the eve of a February 1988 funeral.

Tragically the search drew a blank; but this itself, Mrs McCourt says, is important evidence in favour of Simms’s continued incarceration.

She said: “It is more than five months since I testified to the panel. I think it is only fair that I should speak again so that my evidence is as fresh in the minds of the panel as his. But they are not going to let me do that. This is despite what happened at St Aidan’s since. The fact that Helen was not found after all that expectation and trauma serves very well as an example of how much pain Simms is continuing to cause us after all these years.”