Helen McCourt murderer Ian Simms to be released imminently

Helen McCourt Image copyright PA
Image caption Helen McCourt was murdered by Ian Simms in Billinge, Merseyside, in 1988

A man jailed over the murder of a 22-year-old woman is due to be freed from prison imminently despite never revealing where he hid her remains.

Ian Simms, 63, was convicted of killing Helen McCourt, who disappeared in Merseyside in 1988. Her body has never been found.

Her family urged the government to deny parole to killers who do not disclose the location of their victims's bodies.

But a High Court bid to keep Simms in jail was refused.

Ms McCourt's family had launched a legal challenge to keep Simms in prison ahead of a judicial review of the Parole Board's decision to free him.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Ian Simms, pictured in 1988, was found guilty of the 22-year-old's abduction and murder

Lawyers representing Helen's mother, Marie McCourt, argued that he should remain in jail until her legal case had concluded.

But Lord Justice Dingemans and Mr Justice Fordham refused to postpone his release.

Lord Justice Dingemans said the Parole Board, having reviewed the latest psychological evidence on Simms, considers that he would never disclose the location of her remains even if he was never set free.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Marie McCourt has urged the government to introduce Helen's Law in memory of her daughter

Helen's mother has campaigned for a change in the law.

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.

Simms, who has always maintained his innocence, was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 16 years.

The 63-year-old was eligible to be considered for release in February 2004.

'Pain and anguish'

A statement released on behalf of Mrs McCourt said she was "naturally disappointed" by the decision.

"The High Court is yet to determine the wider issue of the Parole Board's recommendation that Ian Simms is safe to be released," the spokesman added.

"While those proceedings remain unresolved, it is not appropriate to comment further."

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 High Court's ruling means we must now 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."

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