28 years ago, today, my beautiful daughter was murdered.
Feb 9, 2016 — Twenty eight years ago, today, on a stormy February night, my beautiful daughter, Helen McCourt, was murdered. She was just 22. Almost three decades have passed but, for me, time has stood still.
Because her body has never been found we have had no funeral. No closure.
The conviction of Ian Simms, her killer, was only the third in British legal history without a body – and the first secured on the basis of DNA. Today, there are dozens as killers go to ever extreme lengths to hide evidence of their crimes. Some trials don’t even make headlines. But the pain, for the families left in this cruel limbo, is tortuous.
This cannot go on.
Last week, I took my fight for Helen’s Law to the Ministry of Justice. Helen’s Law is simple; killers should not be released from prison until they reveal the whereabouts of their victim. And the common law crimes of preventing the burial of a corpse, disposing of a corpse, and obstructing a coroner to be made criminal offences.
I met with Victims Minister Mike Penning to ask why the Parole Board has recommended that Ian Simms – who killed my daughter 28 years ago – be moved to an open prison within 28 days. And I begged him to intervene.
The news from the Parole Board, broken to me less than 24 hours previously, had come as a huge blow.
Over the years, I had been assured by two home secretaries that, until he revealed this information, he would never be considered for release.
Yet, at some point over the last few years (no-one is able to give me a definite answer) it was decided that prisoners no longer needed to show remorse for their crimes or prove they had been rehabilitated to be considered for release.
Open prison is just one small step away from parole and, eventual, release.
Mr Penning showed me a letter from the Prisons Minister to the Parole Board. Thanks to my campaign for Helen’s Law, which you have all supported, he has asked the Parole Board to review their guidelines in cases of a ‘deliberate or wilful failure to disclose the whereabouts of their victim’s body and how this should be considered in the overall assessment of risk’.
I have since written to Mr Penning with all the reasons why I believe parole should not be granted in cases of this nature until the killer ends the torment for their victim’s family.
He has assured me he will discuss this with the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove. I pray they listen.
After the meeting, I presented the petition, signed by more than 320,000 people to 10 Downing Street accompanied by my MP Conor McGinn, for St Helens North, who is supporting my campaign.
He too has assured me that he wants to see ‘immediate progress’ on my concerns and will be keeping pressure on the Government so that victims and families will finally get the justice they deserve.
Conor McGinn will also be lobbying for Helen’s Law to be adopted – raising the issue as a Private Member’s Bill this spring – if necessary.
I am thrilled with the progress I have made in less than eight weeks.
And it’s all down to each and every one of you – for taking the time to support me.
Even though the petition has been handed in, we are continuing to collect signatures. The more support we have, the more the Government will have to act.
Please, please continue to support me and spread this message to every single person you know. If you know of a family in this terrible situation please get them to contact me. Together, we can fight for justice. If you know of a barrister with an interest in human rights who would be willing to represent us – again, please, please, let me know.
I will never get my daughter back. But, with your support, I can do something in her name.
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