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Helen McCourt killer's release confirmed as mother loses legal bid | UK news

The killer of Helen McCourt is due to be freed from prison next week despite never revealing where he hid her remains.

Ian Simms was convicted in 1989 of murdering the 22-year-old insurance clerk, who vanished on her way home from work in Merseyside the year before. Her body has never been found.

Her mother, Marie McCourt, had launched a legal challenge to keep him behind bars ahead of a judicial review of the Parole Board decision to release him. Her lawyers had argued that he should remain in jail until her case had concluded.

However, the high court bid by McCourt’s family to postpone his release on licence was refused by Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Fordham, meaning Simms, now 63, is due to be released on 11 February.

Lord Justice Dingemans said the Parole Board, having reviewed the latest psychological evidence on Simms, considers that he would never disclose the location of McCourt’s remains even if he was never set free.

The Parole Board had reviewed its decision following a challenge by justice secretary Robert Buckland, but concluded that Simms had “met the test for release” noting factors including a “considerable change in his behaviour”.

McCourt’s mother has campaigned for a change in the law. The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill, also known as “Helen’s Law”, would require the Parole Board to consider any refusal to provide information to the police about victims’ remains when deciding about release.

Having twice had its ratification delayed due to general elections, the legislation has been reintroduced since the reopening of parliament last month but no date has yet been set for its debate by MPs.

The former pub landlord, who has always maintained his innocence, was given a life sentence with a minimum of at least 16 years when a jury in Liverpool crown court found him guilty of McCourt’s abduction and murder based on overwhelming DNA evidence. He has served more than twice the minimum term, since he has never admitted guilt nor revealed where he hid her remains.

A statement released on behalf of McCourt’s mother said she was “naturally disappointed” by the decision: “The high court is yet to determine the wider issue of the Parole Board’s recommendation that Ian Simms is safe to be released. While those proceedings remain unresolved, it is not appropriate to comment further.”

Helen McCourt disappeared shortly after getting off a bus near her home in Billinge. Simms’s pub, the George and Dragon, near Wigan, was close to her family home and he quickly became a suspect. He was found guilty of her abduction and murder after her earring was found in the boot of his car.

Simms is due to be freed from HMP Garth in Leyland, Lancashire. When he is released, he will have to wear a 24-hour electronic tagging device to monitor his whereabouts. He will also be required to live at a specified address, observe a curfew and avoid making contact with the victim’s family.

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