Page last updated at 18:11 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 19:11 UK

Killer is a 'coward' says mother

Marie McCourt said she was disappointed she could not face her daughter's killer

A mother has expressed her disappointment that she could not confront the man who murdered her daughter at his parole hearing.

Helen McCourt, 22, from Billinge, near St Helens, vanished in 1988 after calling her mother to tell her when she would be home from work in Liverpool.

Local pub landlord Ian Simms was convicted by overwhelming DNA evidence, but her body has never been found.

Her mother said he was a coward after he refused to meet her at the hearing.

Simms, who is serving his life sentence at HMP Garth in Leyland, Lancashire, has refused to say where he buried Helen McCourt and insists he is innocent.

Marie McCourt was due to come face to face with Simms - who ran the George and Dragon in Billinge, near Wigan

I wanted him to realise the harm he has done by remaining silent and how that is an ongoing torture to me

Marie McCourt

His decades of denial have tormented her 65-year-old mother and her family who have spent years searching for her body.

"He wasn't there because he is a coward," said Mrs McCourt.

"He is a bully and a coward, I really wanted him to come face to face with my family.

"I wanted him to be there to listen to my submissions - I was very disappointed. I wanted him to realise the harm he has done by remaining silent and how that is an ongoing torture to me.

"But we have to accept what happened - even the parole board judge had no say over making him attend."

'Decent burial'

Mrs McCourt, 65, is part of the group Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM) Merseyside, which supports those attending such parole hearings.

Helen McCourt
Helen McCourt's body has never been found

Mrs McCourt wanted to speak to Simms to find the whereabouts of her daughter's body, something that he has never divulged.

The family has used divers, drained ponds, crawled through old mine shafts and used a digger to excavate drain ditches in their search for Helen.

"It has been very difficult to deal with because in one way I've not had that opportunity to grieve and for it to really sink in.

"For 21 years I've gone through hell. I don't have a grave to go to.

"I will never give up searching and wanting to find Helen's body. That is the most important thing in my life now, to find where Helen is and give her that decent burial.

"That's the only thing I've ever wanted from Ian Simms and it's something he should be considering really seriously now.

"I will fight and fight and fight for Helen's remains to be found."

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