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Helen McCourt’s mother ‘horrified’ by decision to release her killer

Marie McCourt said she was ‘in a state of shock’ after Ian Simms was deemed by the Parole Board to have ‘met the test for release’.

Marie McCourt, mother of Helen McCourt, after she gave evidence at a Parole board hearing (PA)
Marie McCourt, mother of Helen McCourt, after she gave evidence at a Parole board hearing (PA)

By Pat Hurst and Ryan Hooper, PA

The mother of murder victim Helen McCourt has said she is “horrified” by the Parole Board’s decision that her daughter’s killer has “met the test for release”, despite never telling police where he hid her body.

Marie McCourt was shaking with anger as she told the PA news agency she was “in shock” after the ruling, announced on Thursday, three decades after the 22-year-old went missing.

The decision came after her campaign to keep killers behind bars until they lead police to the victim’s body – dubbed Helen’s Law – failed to be ratified before Parliament was dissolved.

Speaking at the family home in Billinge, Merseyside, Ms McCourt said: “I’m just in a state of shock to be honest.

“I got a call this morning and was told he was being released.

“I was just in shock. Well, I’m still trying to deal with it.

“I’m horrified by it, I’m horrified by it. This man is a danger, you know.

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Ian Simms, seen arriving at St Helens Magistrates’ Court in 1988, has been in prison for three decades (PA)

“I just wonder if some of these people who feel that they’re safe to be released… it’s OK for them, they are not going to live by them.

“But the people in the area, they will have to put up with that.”

The final decision on when Simms is released will be made by the Prison Service, although there will now be a three-week period during which either the Justice Secretary or even the killer himself can appeal.

It means Simms will not be released before December 12, the Parole Board said. The decision is subject to a series of conditions including to reside at a designated address, to be “of good behaviour” and to report for supervision appointments.

Its decision summary said Simms was deemed suitable for release due to factors including the “considerable change in his behaviour”.

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The body of Helen McCourt, killed by Ian Simms in 1988, has never been found (Family handout/PA)

He will have to wear a tagging device to monitor his whereabouts, observe a curfew and avoid any contact with the family of his victim.

Responding to the decision on Thursday, Conor McGinn, the Labour Party candidate standing for re-election as MP for St Helens North, said: “For Marie to have won her campaign for Helen’s Law, only to see her own daughter’s killer released before it is introduced, is heartbreaking and perverse.

“The community in Billinge and St Helens, and indeed the British public as a whole, will share a sense of outrage and disgust.

“To free Helen McCourt’s killer now is an affront to justice and decency, and a betrayal of the commitments made to the McCourt family.

“I have contacted the Justice Secretary to ask for his urgent intervention. This man, like other murderers, must stay behind bars until he gives information about the location of his victims’ remains.”

Ms McCourt added: “If Helen’s Law had have been on the statute books right now those judges would have to really make sure that their decision to release him that he would be safe.

“They would have to go into that, they would have to obey that law and it hasn’t happened it’s not on the statute book yet.”

Pub landlord Simms, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of Ms McCourt’s abduction and murder, has been serving his life sentence at HMP Garth in Leyland, Lancashire.

He has always maintained his innocence over the death of 22-year-old Ms McCourt, an insurance clerk who vanished on her way home from work in Liverpool in 1988.

He was convicted of her murder the following year, having been told he would serve a minimum of 16 years and one day.

He was eligible to be considered for release on February 15 2004.

During a parole board hearing, Ms McCourt’s family called on Simms to end the “torture” and reveal once and for all where he hid her body.

PA

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