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Mother ‘elated’ over decision to review release Helen McCourt’s killer

UK News | Published:

Ian Simms has never told police where he hid her body.

Marie McCourt with a photo of daughter Helen and a file picture of Ian Simms (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The mother of murdered woman Helen McCourt has said she is “elated” that the decision to release her killer from jail is being reviewed after the Justice Secretary intervened.

After learning of the Parole Board decision to free Ian Simms from prison, Marie McCourt called on Robert Buckland to step in.

Last month after a hearing, the board decided Simms had met the test for release three decades after the 22-year-old went missing, despite never telling police where he hid her body.

After the decision, there was a three-week period in which Mr Buckland or Simms himself could appeal against the ruling, before the final choice whether to release was made by the Prison Service.

Helen’s Law
Helen McCourt (PA)

On Tuesday, it was announced that Mr Buckland has asked the Parole Board to review the decision.

Mrs McCourt told the PA news agency: “I’m quite elated with the news. This is what I was hoping would happen.

“I hope now that the Parole Board start looking into it again that they would agree he should stay in jail.”

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But she said it should not have needed the minister to intervene and this decision should never have been made as she believes he is still dangerous.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “After carefully considering the details of this case, we believe there is an arguable case to meet the threshold for reconsideration.

“An application has now been made to the independent Parole Board to have the case reconsidered.

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“It is now for the Parole Board to decide whether the threshold is met for the decision to be formally reconsidered.”

The original decision came after Mrs McCourt’s 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.

Mrs McCourt previously said she was “in shock” at the decision to consider Simms’ release.

The summary of the Parole Board’s original ruling said Simms was deemed suitable for release due to factors including the “considerable change in his behaviour”.

Helen McCourt murder
Marie McCourt (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The decision to release was subject to a number of conditions including residing at a designated address, having to wear a tagging device to monitor his whereabouts, observe a curfew and avoid any contact with the family of his victim.

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

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

Simms was convicted of her murder the following year, having been told he would serve at least 16 years and one day behind bars.

He was eligible to be considered for release in February 2004.

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