Marie McCourt - I cannot rest until my daughter's body is found

Helen McCourt

Exactly 30 years ago today Helen McCourt went to work but never arrived home.


Helen went missing on her way back from work in Liverpool at teatime on Tuesday, February 9 1988, the last confirmed sighting being a bus dropping her off on Rainford Road, Billinge, a few hundred yards from home. By 9.30pm her increasingly worried mother Marie rang the police.

Killer Ian Simms

Related: A mother's 30-year fight for closure

Inquiries soon led to the George and Dragon on Main Street where Helen used to work as a barmaid but two days earlier had been involved in a fracas with a woman and landlord Ian Simms.

Under questioning Simms acted suspiciously and soon a raft of forensic evidence accumulated against him, including Helen’s blood in his flat, part of her earring in his car boot and his and Helen’s possessions found dumped at two sites miles away.

A huge hunt for Helen was launched involving thousands of volunteers but it, like every search since by police, family and friends, proved fruitless.

Helen's mum Marie McCourt

Despite protesting his innocence, Simms was found guilty of murder after a 16-day Liverpool Crown Court trial.

The conviction was one of the first in legal history to be secured without a body, and the first using DNA fingerprinting: blood found at the pub proving to be 126,000 times more likely to have come from Helen or a close relative than anyone else.

Her still-grieving mother Marie has organised a commemorative mass at her local Billinge church to mark a date that is still painful.

Now 74, Marie McCourt admits that time is now running out for her quest to succeed, and its chances of doing so are becoming more remote as the man with all the answers - Simms - could soon be back on the streets without having ever confessed to his crime nor revealed what he did with Helen’s body.

She is desperate for what has been dubbed Helen’s Law to get through parliament - which would insist on “no body, no parole” - to thwart the 61-year-old’s bid for freedom. But, despite a petition of almost 425,000 names, it has yet to reach its second reading in the House of Commons because of events beyond Marie and St Helens North MP Conor McGinn’s control.

This evening, however, may be more of a time for reflection and even celebration of a life long ago cut short.

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