Woman's anger at temporary release of man who murdered her daughter

Ian Simms was jailed for killing Helen McCourt in 1988 but refuses to reveal location of her body

A murderer who has spent 30 years in jail refusing to reveal the location of his victim’s body has been allowed out of jail on temporary release, according to a newspaper report.

Ian Simms, from Billinge, Merseyside, was found guilty of the murder of 22-year-old Helen McCourt in February 1988. Simms, now 62, abducted McCourt as she returned home from work and killed her.

Although McCourt’s body was never found, Simms was convicted on the basis of overwhelming DNA evidence, including traces of the victim’s blood being found in his car. He was jailed at Liverpool crown court in 1989 for life, with a stipulation that he serve a minimum of 16 years before he would be considered for parole.

However, because he has consistently declined to identify where McCourt’s remains are, he has remained in jail for more than a decade longer than he could have expected to serve.

Photographs in the Daily Mail this week showed Simms – who still maintains his innocence and is now in an open prison – waiting for a bus in Birmingham. He was reportedly returning to Leyhill prison after a week’s temporary release.

When asked about the case, Simms said: “If I knew where the body was, I would never have done 16 years extra in prison, would I?”

The news of Simms’s potential release has caused anger to McCourt’s mother, Marie, who has long campaigned to keep him in prison until he revealed the location of her daughter’s body.

Speaking to the Guardian in 2003, when Simms was approaching the first possibility of parole, Marie McCourt said: “We have had to search places where no normal decent people should go – in dirty, filthy sewers and in mineshafts looking for her body.”

She wanted Simms to be charged with preventing a burial, and said: “I am determined he is not walking free without disclosing where Helen’s remains are buried. Until then, I cannot see how he can be considered safe to be released. He is a control freak and a psychopath.”

In recent years Marie McCourt has campaigned in favour of “Helen’s law”, legislation that would deny parole to those convicted of murder if they will not reveal the location of victims’ remains.

MPs voted in favour of such a law in October 2016, but the government has yet to give its backing. The justice minister, Phillip Lee, told the Commons in February 2017 that such a move could risk giving killers “perverse incentives” to lie about where their victims were buried.

A Change.org petition backing the law has so far received nearly 580,000 signatures.


Seth Jacobson

The GuardianTramp