My heart broke for Marie McCourt when it was announced that her daughter’s killer is to be set free.
It was a Parole Board ruling she had never hoped to hear - unless Ian Simms had finally done the decent thing by saying what had happened to Helen’s body and so given the family the peace they have craved for 31 years.
But he has held out 15 years longer than the minimum term imposed by the trial judge and finally been rewarded.
That the board said he would be unlikely to break his silence even if kept behind bars until his dying day is not justification for giving up and letting him go, surely?
A model prisoner he may have been, but even the panel admits he has no empathy and he has also failed to show any remorse.
Some may argue that Simms, now 63, has served long enough and even point out that Darren Pilkington - who is out on licence yet again despite being convicted of two separate killings and having breached his licence twice too - is the more dangerous local killer.
I wouldn’t like to rate one against the other, to be honest.
But given Simms’s lack of rehabilitation, remorse and empathy, who’s to say that he isn’t a calculating and hugely patient man who has played the longest ever game of Blink and won out?
Marie’s mind keeps casting back to the letter he wrote to her from his cell in the early 1990s when he chillingly warned that when he finally tasted freedom he would “have justice.”
Simms would be unwise to come anywhere near Billinge. Especially as folk now know what he looks like these days, after pictures were snapped of him enjoying an unescorted day out in Birmingham earlier this year. Such an infringement or any threats to Marie and her family and he’s straight back inside.
But she’s not given up yet on sending him back to jail anyhow and has now launched a GoFundMe campaign to help her force a judicial review in the hope of overturning the ruling.
The decision came with the cruellest of timing. There was every chance twice in the last three years that the “no body, no parole” clause called Helen’s Law, that Marie has campaigned for, would now have been statute and stopped Simms’s release had not two general elections been called and the legislation been forced to start through Parliament again.
If there’s any justice in the world the board should have waited to see whether that law passed first.