In February 1988, Ian Simms murdered my 22 year old daughter, Helen McCourt. For more than 32 years he has refused to reveal where he hid her body – denying me the chance to lay her to rest and grieve properly.
I was assured by two Home Secretaries that Simms would never be released without showing remorse for his crime and revealing where Helen had been hidden.
Sadly, those assurances came to nothing. In February this year- just days before the anniversary of my daughter’s murder, Simms walked free.
The Parole Board accepted that, while Simms was clearly guilty of my daughter’s murder, there was no prospect of him ever disclosing the whereabouts of his victim even if he were kept in prison until he died as he ‘is so heavily invested in presenting himself as someone who is innocent… to the point where he may believe that to be the case.’
I immediately instructed my legal team to launch a judicial review into this decision. Our hopes of dealing with it quickly have been scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic.
I have now learned that, should my legal action fail, Simms’ legal team estimate that they will seek in excess of £75,000 in costs against me. If it succeeds, however, he will have the benefit of legal aid to cover his own costs.’
Simms, a convicted killer, has been granted legal aid. I, the law-abiding mother of a missing murder victim, am not entitled to a penny. I am blessed to have a legal team representing me on a pro bono basis. Yet, I still face financial ruin if I fail.
If I am unable to raise sufficient funds to meet Simms’ estimated costs, it is likely I’ll be forced to discontinue the claim.
A one and a half day hearing, to decide the claim, has been listed for 29 July. (This would have been Helen’s 54th Birthday). Time is therefore limited – which is why I am asking for your help.
Simms has taken my daughter’s life and her right to a Christian burial. For more than three decades he has stolen any chance of happiness for her grieving loved ones. Proceeding with this action means I could lose my home, security and sanity.
But I would very much like to do so – with your support. This is a clear case of making a stand for justice in the interests of the public.
Back in 1988 these crimes were rare. Today, they are happening all too often as killers go to desperate measures to hide the evidence of their crimes – regardless of the pain their acts inflict upon the families of their victims.
Laying a loved one to rest is a basic human need and a basic human right. When that person has been taken in the most brutal, violent and callous way – at the hands of another – the need becomes ever more vital.
Knowing that your loved one’s final moments on this earth were filled with terror and fear is distressing enough. But compounded to that is the knowledge that their precious remains are out there, somewhere, but you are unable to ever bring them home. It is a pain that tears at your very heart and soul, every moment of every day. It is a living hell.
How can a killer responsible for perepetuating this agony be deemed safe to return to society? These are not the acts of a reasonable, decent, person.
Too many families are experiencing this torture. And, as killers go to increasingly desperate lengths to hide the evidence of their crimes, too many families will go on to experience it in the future. This is why I need to take this stand.
I truly believe that justice can only be served when a) families of missing murder victims are treated with respect and compassion and b) the public is protected from dangerous killers who refuse to show remorse for their actions.
We need to acknowledge and prevent the significant anguish that innocent families of murder victims continue to experience. I am also calling for greater transparency and victim participation in parole proceedings.
When my campaign launched on Go Fund Me, I was overwhelmed and touched by your generosity. Sadly, the sum – currently standing at £27,000 - falls short of what I may need to proceed.
I appreciate that my appeal comes at the most difficult, and uncertain of, times. (Our campaign to see Helen’s Law on the statute books has already faced huge obstacles in the form of Brexit, a proroguing of Parliament and two snap General Elections and now a global pandemic. Had the law been adopted earlier, as hoped, the Parole Board may well have come to a very different decision and we would not now be in this situation).
Please could I ask that you share this update far and wide. Almost 700,000 people supported my campaign for Helen’s Law. It sounds a cliché but every pound really does count.
Any money not used for this legal action will be placed into a fund to support other families of the missing murdered. There are too many of us. And the number is continually growing.
This is my final chance to both bring Helen home and seek long, overdue, justice for all missing murder victims and their families.
Thank you for your support.
In the light of the Parole Board standing by its decision, this week (Jan 8 2020) to release convicted killer Ian Simms – despite his continued refusal to disclose the whereabouts of missing murder victim Helen McCourt - campaigning mum Marie McCourt has issued the following statement.
‘I am instructing my legal team to prepare a judicial review of this decision in the High Court.
“Being able to bury a murdered love one is a basic human right – and I am taking this stand in the interest of the public.
“I truly believe that justice can only be served when families of missing murder victims are treated with respect and compassion and the public are protected from dangerous killers who refuse to show remorse for their actions. We need to acknowledge and prevent the significant anguish that innocent families of murder victims continue to experience. I am also calling for greater transparency and victim participation in parole proceedings.
“Your help in bringing this action is hugely appreciated.
“All money raised will go towards legal costs I may incur as a result of court action. Any unused money will be placed into a fund to support future legal action by other families of the missing murdered.
This is my last chance to bring Helen home.
Thank you for your support.”
My name is Marie McCourt – I am the mother of missing murder victim Helen McCourt who was killed in 1988 but whose body has never been found. For the last 31 years I have desperately searched for my daughter’s remains so that I can lay her to rest.
I have also spent four years campaigning for Helen’s Law – so that killers remain in prison longer until they reveal the location of their victim’s remains. The decision to launch Helen’s Law was approved by the Ministry of Justice this summer and even included in last month's Queen’s Speech in October – but, due to the General Election, has yet to be added to the statute books.
On November 21 2019 I was shocked and appalled to learn that the Parole Board had recommended the release of my daughter’s killer Ian Simms. He will walk free despite his continued refusal to reveal the location of her body.
My legal team is now studying the Parole Board’s decision and considering what avenues are open to me to stop the release; one such option is to launch a judicial review of the decision in the High Court.
I am taking a stand not just for me but for all other families in this horrendous situation. Taking this action could be expensive - and we need your help. Over half a million of us stood together to fight for Helen's law - now I’m asking you to support our legal action by donating to our fighting fund.
All money raised during this funding campaign will go towards legal costs I may incur. Any unused money will be placed into a fund to support future legal action by other families of the 'missing murdered'.
Picture by Chris Neill
Simms will be freed within weeks so this may be my last chance to bring Helen home.
Thank you for your support.
Please also consider supporting our appeal by sharing the Helen's Law campaign with your family and friends.
If you'd like to find out more about our campaign:
- Mark English
- Margaret Dodd
- marie moran
- Lucy Armstrong