A murderer who has refused to disclose the location of his victim’s body has been released from prison.

Ian Simms, 63, is free on licence following a ruling by High Court judges that he should not be kept in custody pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

Simms is serving a life sentence for the abduction and murder of 22-year-old Helen McCourt in 1988.

Ian Simms Ian Simms was eligible to be considered for release in February 2004 (PA)

The Parole Board recommended Simms should be released following a hearing in November 2019.

The board reviewed its decision following a challenge by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, but again concluded, on January 8, that Simms should be freed.

Helen’s mother, Marie McCourt, and her family have also launched a legal bid and her lawyers argued Simms should stay behind bars ahead of a judicial review of the Parole Board decision.


On Wednesday, a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We completely understand the pain and anguish that the Parole Board’s decision has caused Marie McCourt and her family.

“The Lord Chancellor asked the Parole Board to reconsider but has no legal power to overrule these decisions.

“The High Court’s ruling meant we had to release Ian Simms from custody though he will be recalled if the court later decides to quash the Parole Board’s decision.

“He will be on licence for life, subject to strict conditions and probation supervision when released, and he faces a return to prison if he fails to comply.”

Helen's mother Marie McCourt Helen’s mother Marie McCourt after a Parole Board hearing (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Mrs McCourt, from Billinge, Merseyside, has campaigned for a change in the law to keep killers locked up until they lead police to a victim’s body.

The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information about Victims) Bill, dubbed Helen’s Law, has failed to be ratified before Parliament on numerous occasions – twice being delayed because of general elections.

Pub landlord Simms, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence, has always maintained his innocence over the death of Ms McCourt, an insurance clerk who disappeared on her way home from work in Liverpool in 1988.

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