|Kill Place||Billinge, Merseyside|
|Kill Date||Feb 1989|
|Court||Liverpool Crown Court|
7th February 1989, Helen McCourt has an argument with another woman in a local pub, she is banned from the George & Dragon pub by landlord Ian Simms who, according to witnesses was quite rude to her saying he 'hated her'.
In the previous months Simms had made several sexual advances to Helen, but she had rejected him many times.
9th February 1989, 22-year-old insurance clerk, Helen McCourt called her mother from work just after 4pm to say she would be home early from work as she was going out with her new boyfriend that night, so she wanted time to wash her hair.
Helen got off the bus after work for the short walk home, the route took her past the pub.
A man getting off another bus reported hearing a woman scream, but the sound was cut off, like it was stifled. Helen was never seen or heard of again.
Ian Simms was questioned about Helen's disappearance, and raised suspicion as he became quite agitated during questioning. His car was searched and DNA traces of Helen's blood were found in the boot, they also found an earring, later identified by Helen's mother Marie, as being one of a pair that Helen had been given on her 21st birthday. The back of the earring was later found in Simm's flat, as well as further blood stains belonging to Helen.
Blood splatters on the wall paper in Simm's flat led forensic experts to believe that Helen was hit with force in the face.
March 1989, a bin bag containing Helen's clothes and handbag was found on a riverbank 20-miles away. The bin bag also contained a cotton jacket, that Simms confirmed was his, the sleeves were bloodstained, forensic tests proving the blood was Helen's, as well as some of Helen's hair being found in the pocket.
Further damming evidence concerned the bin bag itself, it was proved that it had been ripped from a roll of bags, the rest of the roll being discovered at Simms flat.
Furthermore fibres taken from Helen's coat matched those of the carpet in Simms flat.
A local man came forward to say that when out walking his dog along the Manchester Ship Canal he had discovered a blood soaked towel, and several items of mens' clothing, also bloodstained. All items were sent for forensic tests, the results showed that the blood was from Helen McCourt. Initially Simms denied these clothes were his, but after both his wife and mistress stated they were indeed his, he changed his story and confirmed the bloodstained clothes were his.
March 1989: Simms went on trial and denied murder. At the trial at Liverpool Crown Court, Simms claimed he was the victim of an elaborate 'frame-up' where someone had managed to break into his pub while he was upstairs, murder Helen, dress themselves in his clothes, steal his car to take the body away, and then bring it back later unnoticed, all without his knowledge.
14th March 1989, The jury found Simms guilty, Simms was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 16-years.
He was the first person to be convicted solely on DNA evidence where no body has been found.
December 2015, Helen's mother, Marie McCourt started a campaign for a change in the law
so that a convicted murderer could not be released or considered for parole if they did not disclose where the victims body was buried or hidden.
March 2019, Simms was released from prison on temporary license.
May 2019, the government announced plans to change the law.
February 2020, Mrs McCourt went to the high court to prevent the release of Simms, this was refused and Ian Simms, then aged-63 was released from prison.
4th November 2020, Murderers and paedophiles who hold back information on their victims could now face longer behind bars after the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Act – known commonly as ‘Helen’s Law’ - received Royal Assent
27th October 2021, Cannibal killer David Harker is the first known convicted murderer denied parole under Helen's law.
Friday 24th June 2022, it is announced that Ian Sims had died, no cause of death was given.