Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Mother of victim begs parole board to keep killer Ian Simms behind bars

The body of Helen McCourt has not yet been located.

Pub landlord Ian Simms pictured in 1988 (PA)
Pub landlord Ian Simms pictured in 1988 (PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

The mother of murdered Helen McCourt has begged the Parole Board to keep her killer behind bars while he refuses to reveal where he hid her body.

Marie McCourt is to give evidence at a hearing on Thursday which will consider whether Ian Simms should be released.

She has pleaded with the murderer to tell her the whereabouts of her daughter’s body ever since the insurance clerk vanished on her way home from work in 1988.

But the pub landlord, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of the 22-year-old’s abduction and murder, is still in jail and has always maintained his innocence.

Mrs McCourt has campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he helps lead police to her daughter’s body, as well as calling for laws to deny killers parole if they refuse to reveal such information.

bpanews_e46f9757-b093-4e67-a877-6bf26a45b467_embedded225034244
Marie McCourt (left) with her daughter Helen (Family handout/PA)

The legislation, known as Helen’s Law, came close to being ratified in Parliament before it was dissolved ahead of the General Election, which Mrs McCourt said has put her back to “square one” and risks Simms being released.

In a statement on Wednesday Mrs McCourt, from St Helens in Merseyside, said: “Every parole hearing relating to this man is distressing – but this one is particularly so.

“Simms has never come this close to being released – while Helen’s Law is so close to being added to the statute books.

“This man not only took my daughter’s life but has perpetuated the agony by refusing to say where he hid her body.

“Reading my victim statement aloud is a reminder that the pain is as raw now as it was more than 31 years ago when my daughter was murdered – but I have to do this for Helen.

“Until Simms faces up to what he has done and admits his guilt, he will never get the help he needs.

“I pray that the parole judges listen to my plight, make the right decision and keep Simms locked up until he reveals where we can find Helen, bring her home and lay her to rest.”

Last week she renewed her plea for the law to be passed “as soon as possible” in the wake of convictions for the murderers of two missing mothers.

Ben Lacomba was found guilty of killing his ex-lover Sarah Wellgreen and is yet to be sentenced.

The mother-of-five’s body has never been found.

Sailor Andrew Griggs was also found guilty of killing his pregnant wife Debbie and has been jailed for a minimum of 20 years.

The mother-of-three was expecting their fourth child when she vanished 20 years ago.

The Prisoners (Disclosure Of Information About Victims) Bill was brought to Parliament last month.

MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016, but it did not receive Government backing until earlier this year.

Parole Board guidance already says offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could face longer in prison.

bpanews_e46f9757-b093-4e67-a877-6bf26a45b467_embedded247935651
Sarah Wellgreen’s body has not been recovered (Family/PA)

Courts can also hand down tougher sentences for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.

But the Bill would make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer’s failure to disclose the location of their victim’s remains when considering them for release.

It was one of the first pieces of legislation introduced in the new parliamentary session and would also apply to paedophiles who take indecent images of children but refuse to disclose their identity.

But it only comes into force if it is passed by Parliament and receives Royal Assent.

It only made its early stages of being considered by MPs before it was decided the country would go to the polls on December 12, meaning any Bills not yet passed are scrapped or have to start afresh if the next government still wants to bring them into force.

Mrs McCourt said she “couldn’t even put words to it” if the general election meant all her efforts were knocked back again, having already endured such delays when Theresa May announced an election in 2017 and because of Brexit.

A Parole Board spokesman said: “The Parole Board will consider a range of evidence before making its decision.

“This will be done with great care and with public safety the number one priority.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph