The news of the imminent release from prison of Ian Simms, who murdered Helen McCourt in 1988, has been received with shock and horror by her family. Convicted by overwhelming DNA evidence despite the absence of a body, Simms continues to maintain his innocence and refuses to divulge where Helen McCourt’s body is. We believe Simms should take a lie detector test in Leyland Lancashire at HMP Garth before he is released.
The astonishing parole board decision was made because Simms had “met the test for release”. Part of the ‘test’ apparently included a considerable change in the murderer’s behaviour. It is a blow to Helen’s mother, Marie McCourt, who successfully campaigned to change the law requiring murderers to be kept in prison until they revealed where the bodies of their victims are. The Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, confirmed the law would be adopted in England and Wales on 5 July 2019. Unfortunately Parliament didn’t have time for Helen’s Law to go through the ratification process before being dissolved ahead of the general election. Ironically had the new law been on the statute books, a judge would have had to scrutinise the decision to ensure that it was safe to release Simms. There is a 3 week appeal period and the clock is running.
Disappearance of Helen McCourt
Liverpool insurance clerk Helen disappeared on her way home from work on 9 February 1988. In 1989 public house landlord, Ian Simms was convicted of her murder. He was 31 years old at the time and sentenced to life imprisonment, serving at least 16 years and 1 day. He was one of the first people to be convicted using what was then, very new DNA evidence in the absence of a body. The full story is outlined in a documentary that you can watch by clicking here
Eligible for parole on 15 February 2005, Helen’s family urged Simms to reveal where her body was. His refusal to do so contributed to him not being released. Nothing has changed as far as we can see from that hearing to the most recent review on 8 November this year, in that he has still not divulged the information.
Lie detector test in Leyland
Simms’s release is conditional on him wearing a tag, observing a curfew and not contacting Helen’s family. There is no information as to whether he will also be subjected to periodic polygraph examinations. However, we are more than willing to visit HMP Garth to administer a lie detector test in Leyland before his release.
Among the questions we would ask are:
1) Did you kill Helen McCourt?
2) Do you know where her body is?
We hope any appeal against the parole board decision is successful since the McCourt family need closure. The only person who can give them that is Simms.