UK Justice Forum

Off Topic and General Discussions => A Compendium of High Profile Murder Cases => Topic started by: Pic on April 21, 2016, 09:45:52 AM

Title: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Pic on April 21, 2016, 09:45:52 AM
The disappearance of Helen McCourt: Where did pub Landlord bury/dispose of her body and what was the motive for his crime of suspected murder?

(http://i2.liverpoolecho.co.uk/incoming/article6168042.ece/ALTERNATES/s615/1145564JPG.jpg)

Ian Simms escorted by police during his trial for the murder of Helen McCourt in 1988.

Helen McCourt (29 July 1965 – c. 9 February 1988) was a 22-year-old insurance clerk from Lancashire (now Merseyside), England, who disappeared on 9 February 1988 in the town of Billinge, Metropolitan Borough of St Helens, Merseyside, shortly after getting off a bus less than five hundred yards from her home.
Her body has never been found. Ian Simms, a local pub landlord, was subsequently charged with and convicted of her murder. The case is a rare example where a murder conviction has been obtained without the presence of a body, and was one of the first in the UK to use DNA fingerprinting.

Helen McCourt spoke with her mother by telephone before 4:00 pm on 9 February 1988, shortly before she was due to leave work. She was planning to go out for the evening with her new boyfriend and wanted her tea ready earlier so she had time to wash her hair. Two days before her disappearance, Helen had been involved in a heated argument with a woman in the George and Dragon pub, the landlord was Ian Simms (aged 31 at the time – a married man with two small children).
After the argument, Simms had banned Helen from the pub and, according to several customers, had used obscene language about her and said how much he "hated" her. He had made sexual advances to her which she had rejected, and he also believed she knew about his affair with his 21-year-old mistress and was gossiping about it.

(http://i1.liverpoolecho.co.uk/incoming/article10712347.ece/ALTERNATES/s1227b/JS78425483.jpg)

Murder victim Helen McCourt, 22, who disappeared in 1988.  Her body has never been found.

Helen alighted from her bus around 5:30 pm and set off on the short journey home, a route that took her past the pub. Within minutes, a man getting off another bus heard a loud scream coming from the pub that was cut short. Helen McCourt has never been seen or heard from since that night.
While being questioned by police, Simms came under suspicion when he became extremely nervous. His car was impounded, and forensic scientists found traces of Helen's blood: spots of blood on the rubber sill of the boot and a bloodstain on the boot carpet. In the boot they also found an opal and pearl earring, later identified by Marie McCourt as one of a pair Helen had been given for her 21st birthday; she had been wearing the earrings on the day she vanished. Traces of her blood were also found in Simm's flat: on the carpet at the foot of the stairs leading to his apartment, on a bedroom carpet in his flat, on wallpaper in the bedroom, and splashed on wallpaper next to the outside door to Simm's accommodation, where police believe she was first attacked.

In March, Helen's handbag, taupe coat, maroon scarf, navy trousers and green mittens were found on a riverbank in Irlam, about 20 miles away, in a black binliner proved to have been taken from a roll of them in Simms's pub. Her brand new trousers, worn for the first time on the morning of her disappearance, had fibres on them from the stair carpet, landing carpet and bedroom carpet of Simms' flat, indicating she was dragged upstairs after being attacked by him (a witness working in the pub's restaurant testified she heard dragging noises from above her during the time of the murder). Also found with her clothing was a length of electrical flex. This was similar to other lengths of flex found in Simm's flat, which he used in playing with his two dogs. The flex found at Irlam had dog toothmarks on it that were matched to Simm's dogs; it also had strands of human hair adhering to it that were matched to hairs from Helen McCourt's hair rollers. Police believe the flex was used to strangle her.

Simms claims he was framed and hopes his chance of parole will give him his freedom back but it has been rejected on previous occasions and he will not admit his guilt in this crime and says he was set up. but who by then? if the killler wasn't him then who was it? i wish we could find out more about this case because I did hear a theory that Simms had access to an incinerator at Billinge Hospital to dispose of the body, but surely people would have seen him and i find this a little far fetched. or is it? and to carry all this out while running a pub/restaurant at the same time? what is the truth to this case? the full story.

1) what do you think happened in the pub between Helen and Simms? (she had been a bar maid at the pub the previous year but left) why did she return to the pub to talk with Simms if she was so eager to get home and prepare herself for a date with her new boyfriend? was it really over an affair or was Simm's jealous? and if so did the mistress/wife of Simms ever notice any violent behaviour during the marriage/affair? why did he strike out at Helen apart from "hating" her so much?
2) do you think Simms was framed and if so, who by and why? i heard a theory that Simms knows who did it (drugs related) but will not disclose this because it will put his wife and children in danger. how true do you think this theory is?
3) what do you think the killer did with Helen's body and do you think he has ever shared this with anyone else? do you think the use of an incinerator would wipe the body completely out of existence without sounding harsh here?

Overall, i think Simms is guilty but i also think that someone knows more about this case and it's not fair that Helen's family have never been given chance to give her a proper burial. i would like to see a resolve for this family before the end of Simm's life and Helen's mother's.

http://www.wigantoday.net/news/local/the-murder-of-helen-mccourt-how-the-terrible-events-unfolded-1-7715038

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/helen-mccourt-simms-killer-prison-10831854
   
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Myster on April 21, 2016, 12:53:19 PM
Simms is as guilty as sin and a fantasist who uses every excuse to foist the blame on some mythical third party. The evidence against this murderer was overwhelming and rather than being moved to an open prison, Simms should have remained securely locked up until he reveals what happened to Helen McCourt and where he disposed of her body.
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Pic on December 08, 2016, 12:00:45 AM
Ian simms has been incarcerated for 29 years for a murder he may not have committed.  He has continuously denied any involvement in helen mccourts disappearance, yet with her body still not found he has been denied parole again and again.  He has served 16 YEARS over his minimum tariff. 

Just like eddie gilfoyle he has steadfastly protested his innonence, whilst the victims mother has successfully campaigned for years and stopped simms having a voice after a ruling that journalists were not allowed to visit prisonrrs  (simms, o'brien v) 

The head of CID, Merseyside policd Detective Inspector Tom Baxter witheld vital files which could have exonerated  eddie gilfoyle,  i wonder if this happened in the ian simms investigation???  Same guy, same conviction.....
 


Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: John on December 08, 2016, 07:40:57 PM
I am not familiar with this case but had a quick look at the background to what allegedly occurred.  The circumstantial evidence appears to be overwhelming and certainly goes far beyond that which one would expect in a situation where someone had been set up.

A man came forward to say that, on the morning after Helen's disappearance, he had discovered a blood-stained towel while walking his dog along the Manchester Ship Canal in Hollins Green, Warrington. He later discovered a second towel along with several items of men's clothing, which also had blood on them; the blood was later identified as coming from Helen McCourt. The jumper had the logo of Labatts beer on it, a brand of beer popular at the George and Dragon pub. After first denying it, Simms later admitted these were his clothes.

Weeks after Helen's disappearace her handbag, taupe coat, maroon scarf, navy trousers and green mittens were found on a riverbank in Irlam, about 20 miles away, in a black binliner proved to have been taken from a roll of them in Simms's pub. Fibres from trousers Helen wore for the first time on the morning of her disappearance were found on the stair carpet, landing carpet, and bedroom carpet of Simms' flat, indicating she was dragged upstairs after being attacked by him. A witness working in the pub's restaurant testified she heard dragging noises from above her during the time of the murder. Also found with her clothing was a length of electrical flex. This was similar to other lengths of flex found in Simm's flat, which he used in playing with his two dogs. The flex found at Irlam had dog toothmarks on it that were matched to Simm's dogs; it also had strands of human hair adhering to it that were matched to hairs from Helen McCourt's hair rollers. Police believe the flex was used to strangle her.

The location of these finds near the Manchester Ship Canal and the River Irwell in Irlam could be clues as to where Helen's remains were hidden.
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: puglove on December 08, 2016, 11:37:12 PM
Simms is as guilty as sin and a fantasist who uses every excuse to foist the blame on some mythical third party. The evidence against this murderer was overwhelming and rather than being moved to an open prison, Simms should have remained securely locked up until he reveals what happened to Helen McCourt and where he disposed of her body.

As ever, Myster, you're bang on the button. Not only does Simms look like a cross between Crippen and Hitler, the evidence is indeed overwhelming. It's all a bit like the Vincent Tabak crap that's happening on here at the moment. When it walks like duck, and quacks like duck.......
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Pic on December 09, 2016, 12:07:52 AM
The orgy of evidence that was found in this case was 'too perfect'. Bloodstained clothes found were A labbatts top, jeans and 2 labbatts bar towels.  Simms always denied these clothes belonged to him.  They wasn't hidden,  the jeans were found in the middle of footpath like someone had just stepped out of them.  The victims bag and clothes were found with Simms coat a month later.  Simms confirmed this was his jacket even though a clump of the victims hair was found in his pocket.  Nearby they also found a length of electrical flex tied into a noose and a spade that belonged to Simms.  For a person who can conceal a body that well it still hasn't been found,  he sure was sloppy in hiding the evidence.  There was NO blood found on any of the victims clothes or Simms jacket,  not even a trace.!!! 

There were several sightings of the victim in several locations, yet the police concluded that she DID catch the bus to her hometown, although no-one saw her.... 

I could go on and on....
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Angelo222 on December 10, 2016, 11:56:31 AM
Ian simms has been incarcerated for 29 years for a murder he may not have committed.  He has continuously denied any involvement in helen mccourts disappearance, yet with her body still not found he has been denied parole again and again.  He has served 16 YEARS over his minimum tariff. 

Just like eddie gilfoyle he has steadfastly protested his innonence, whilst the victims mother has successfully campaigned for years and stopped simms having a voice after a ruling that journalists were not allowed to visit prisonrrs  (simms, o'brien v) 

The head of CID, Merseyside policd Detective Inspector Tom Baxter witheld vital files which could have exonerated  eddie gilfoyle,  i wonder if this happened in the ian simms investigation???  Same guy, same conviction.....

Simms is deemed too much of a danger to the public to be released on parole so what is that all about?  Could it be that like the Bamber case, there are there fears of reprisals if he is released?

Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Kaisha on December 10, 2016, 01:37:44 PM
I live in Billinge where all this took place.  The victims mother has campaigned for years against Simms.  She has stopped him having a voice.  The journalist Bob Woffinden took an interest in Simms ' case and started to visit him in prison,  he too believes Simms to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice.  The victims mother didn't like this and complained to the justice minister who slapped a ban on journalists NOT to be allowed to have contact with any prisoners (R v ex-parte Simms, O'Brien) and now she is pushing for a new law in which would see a killer behind bars until they reveal where the victims remains are.  It's called "Helens Law". 

Believe me, the investigation, the trial was a complete shambles.  This guy was banged up within 36 hours of her disappearance.  They arrested him for murder without a scrap of evidence.  No-one saw the girl get off the bus for gods sake.  I remember that a lot of witnesses said she got into a car when she got off the train in St. Helens,  yet the police where adamant she got off the bus in billinge with NO sightings of her.  the numerous TV shows and interviews
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Kaisha on December 10, 2016, 01:45:50 PM
I knew Simms, yes he was a rum lad but NEVER would he hurt a lady, never mind murder one of them.  He was arrogant at times but being a doorman and then owning a pub,  you have to take that persona otherwise punters would walk all over you.

He was framed.  By whom I do not know,  but one thing is for sure,  the reason she still ain't been found is because they have the wrong man banged up for it.  30 years he's been in there STILL protesting his innocence.  His last parole was slightly a move in the right direction as they recommended him move to an open prison ready for release.  They know they can't justify keeping him in there but they can't just let him out as he is institutionalised. 

I personally look forward to the guy breathing fresh air again,  it would be very interesting listening to his story instead of all the bollocks I have to read regarding this case
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Pic on December 10, 2016, 01:52:37 PM
Totally agree Kaisha.  Where you aware that Simms' defence team where DENIED access to the DNA samples?  I can't believe that.  That is not a fair trial surely?

I remember when they arrested Simms and led him out the pub,  a little crowd had gathered and the press where there too.  A massive crowd was there when they took Simms and the jury to the pub.  Jesus he didn't stand a chance, they already hD him banged up before they heard anything of the trial.  Joke of a trial, innocent BEFORE proven guilty??! 

That was blew out the water for sunny.... poor guy
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 21, 2019, 04:23:37 PM
Simms is deemed too much of a danger to the public to be released on parole so what is that all about?  Could it be that like the Bamber case, there are there fears of reprisals if he is released?

Clearly not..

https://www.itv.com/news/2019-11-21/murderer-ian-simms-meets-test-for-release-from-prison-despite-never-revealing-location-of-victim-helen-mccourt-s-body/
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 21, 2019, 04:42:44 PM
Danny Shaw
@DannyShawBBC
1h
Panel says Simms hasn’t completed any offender behaviour programmes because of his denial, but rules it’s safe to release him because of “progress” he’s made, “considerable change in his behaviour...protective factors” & lack of involvement in violence or substance misuse
https://mobile.twitter.com/DannyShawBBC/status/1197529740724375554
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Myster on November 21, 2019, 04:54:16 PM
I can see this ending up like the Worboys fiasco.
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 22, 2019, 12:50:21 AM
I can see this ending up like the Worboys fiasco.

How so? Worboys had multiple victims, many of whom received no justice. Ian Simms circumstances are very different.

Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 22, 2019, 09:36:45 AM
Mark Leech asks in his article ‘Helen’s Law: What happens when juries believe a liar,

”Who knows what may happen when juries, families or the Parole Board, believe a liar?”
https://prisons.org.uk/the-view-from-here/elens-law-what-happens-when-juries-believe-a-liar/
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 22, 2019, 09:39:21 AM
How so? Worboys had multiple victims, many of whom received no justice. Ian Simms circumstances are very different.

Mark Leech has written an update to his previous article (See link here http://miscarriageofjustice.co/index.php?topic=7157.msg562424#msg562424)

Update 21st November 2019: What Happens Next?
“The Parole Board today cleared for release Ian Simms, the person convicted of Helen McCourt’s murder, without him identifying where her remains can be found.
Although not yet legally required to do so under Helen’s Law, which comes into effect next Spring, the Parole Board said it had applied the Helen’s Law test anyway, and concluded Mr Simm’s was still fit for release.
In a statement the Parole Board said:
‘Taking into account the denial, the refusal to reveal where the victim’s body is, all the risk factors, the progress that Mr Simms has made, the considerable change in his behaviour, the fact that he has not been involved in any violence or substance misuse for many years, his protective factors, the recommendations from all the professionals and all the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Simms met the test for release.’
The Justice Secretary could now intervene and refer the case back to the Parole Board under the ‘shortcut’ Reconsideration Mechanism, – but he would first need to convince a High Court Judge he had legally credible – not merely politically attractive – grounds for doing so.
In short he would need to show that the decision was irrational (meaning it was legally bonkers and no sane Parole Board panel applying the facts to the law could have reached such a decision), or that it was procedurally flawed because rules were not followed or important evidence was not shared; which is what happened in the Worboys case.
The matter is further complicated by the fact that all this is happening against the backdrop of a General Election.
An Election in which the Tories have sought to place a toughening of law and order at the front of their agenda and, with the Parole Board having already applied the Helen’s Law test and authorised release, intervention is a high-risk strategy that carries considerable political risks – and few if any discernible benefits.
If the Justice Secretary does choose to intervene he not only runs the risk of having his intervention thrown out straight away by the Judge but, more than that, even if he is successful and the case is referred for reconsideration the reality is that the Parole Board could still – after reconsideration – reach exactly the same decision and release Ian Simms anyway.
What happens next?
God knows – and no-one can second-guess.
This is the emotional and legal quagmire of uncertainty that results when politics confronts justice.
https://prisons.org.uk/the-view-from-here/elens-law-what-happens-when-juries-believe-a-liar/
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 12:56:56 AM
I live in Billinge where all this took place.  The victims mother has campaigned for years against Simms.  She has stopped him having a voice.  The journalist Bob Woffinden took an interest in Simms ' case and started to visit him in prison,  he too believes Simms to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice.  The victims mother didn't like this and complained to the justice minister who slapped a ban on journalists NOT to be allowed to have contact with any prisoners (R v ex-parte Simms, O'Brien) and now she is pushing for a new law in which would see a killer behind bars until they reveal where the victims remains are.  It's called "Helens Law". 

“The appeal was brought by Ian Simms, now in Long Lartin prison, serving a life sentence for murder, and Michael O'Brien, a convicted murderer now out on bail pending a new appeal.

Bob Woffinden, an investigative journalist who writes for the Guardian, and Karen Voisey, a BBC Wales producer, had been refused permission to visit Simms and O'Brien respectively unless they agreed to sign the undertaking
https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/jul/09/claredyer

The law lords were strongly influenced by an affidavit from Gareth Peirce, a solicitor who has acted for more than 20 miscarriage of justice victims. She told the judges there was no legal aid for investigations and that more than 90% of applicants to the Criminal Cases Review Commission had no solicitor. Cases with the best chance of being taken up were those which "arrive at the commission fully researched and investigated with new evidence compellingly presented". The resources available to television and the national and local press provided the best chance of discovering new evidence, she added.

Lawyers for Jack Straw, the home secretary, had argued that allowing visits would harm prison discipline, and that stories related in the media would upset relatives of the crime victims.

The ban was imposed in 1995 after Michael Howard, then home secretary, received a complaint from an MP representing Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen, whom Simms was convicted of murdering.

Before then, said Lord Steyn, interviews with prisoners "had served to identify and undo a substantial number of miscarriages of justice". He said: "The evidence establishes clearly that without oral interviews it is now virtually impossible, under the ban, for a journalist to take up the case of a prisoner who alleges a miscarriage of justice - a means of correcting errors in the functioning of the criminal justice system has been lost."

Lord Steyn said that freedom of speech was "the lifeblood of democracy" acting "as a brake on the abuse of power by public officials".

But Mrs McCourt, whose daughter's body has not been found, said: "Prisoners should not have the privilege of contact with journalists [to] publicise either their cases, for monetary gain or to boost their egos and self esteem."
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 01:07:10 AM
“The appeal was brought by Ian Simms, now in Long Lartin prison, serving a life sentence for murder, and Michael O'Brien, a convicted murderer now out on bail pending a new appeal.

Bob Woffinden, an investigative journalist who writes for the Guardian, and Karen Voisey, a BBC Wales producer, had been refused permission to visit Simms and O'Brien respectively unless they agreed to sign the undertaking
https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/jul/09/claredyer

The law lords were strongly influenced by an affidavit from Gareth Peirce, a solicitor who has acted for more than 20 miscarriage of justice victims. She told the judges there was no legal aid for investigations and that more than 90% of applicants to the Criminal Cases Review Commission had no solicitor. Cases with the best chance of being taken up were those which "arrive at the commission fully researched and investigated with new evidence compellingly presented". The resources available to television and the national and local press provided the best chance of discovering new evidence, she added.

Lawyers for Jack Straw, the home secretary, had argued that allowing visits would harm prison discipline, and that stories related in the media would upset relatives of the crime victims.

The ban was imposed in 1995 after Michael Howard, then home secretary, received a complaint from an MP representing Marie McCourt, the mother of Helen, whom Simms was convicted of murdering.

Before then, said Lord Steyn, interviews with prisoners "had served to identify and undo a substantial number of miscarriages of justice". He said: "The evidence establishes clearly that without oral interviews it is now virtually impossible, under the ban, for a journalist to take up the case of a prisoner who alleges a miscarriage of justice - a means of correcting errors in the functioning of the criminal justice system has been lost."

Lord Steyn said that freedom of speech was "the lifeblood of democracy" acting "as a brake on the abuse of power by public officials".

But Mrs McCourt, whose daughter's body has not been found, said: "Prisoners should not have the privilege of contact with journalists [to] publicise either their cases, for monetary gain or to boost their egos and self esteem."
A matter of facts by KATHLEEN MOODIE Saturday 4 March 1995 01:02

“Bob Woffinden's report on Ian Simms, the landlord of a Lancashire pub who was jailed for the murder of Helen McCourt ("Burden of proof", 28 January), contains certain inaccuracies and omissions which must be challenged.

It is no secret that Simms consistently lied to the police, his young mistress, his wife and the grieving family of the girl he is convicted of having murdered.

Mr Woffinden claims that there was no animosity between Simms and Helen. But on the Sunday before Helen's disappearance, when Simms had banned Helen from his pub, his language had been obscene and he had told several customers that he hated her. He also believed that Helen had been talking about the late-night drinking sessions at his pub, and about his affair with Tracy Hornby.

One of the arguments which is being advanced to prove Simms's innocence is that Simms has constantly denied that clothes found on a public towpath were his. In fact, Simms did finally admit ownership. It is also the case that Simms's clothes were not found on a towpath, but well away, on a rough track. Simms had had no option but to abandon them when he was disturbed by an Alsatian which had run ahead of its master. Helen's clothes, along with Simms's jacket, were not left in a place where they could easily be discovered: they were well hidden in a place which entailed a steep and difficult descent through a dense covering of shrubs and trees.

It was only after these clothes had been found, a month after Helen had disappeared, that the police were able to cross-match fibres on the clothes with the carpets in Simms's flat. Simms tried to explain away the carpet fibres on Helen's coat by saying that she had often draped her coat over bar stools in his pub. This does not, however, account for the number and distribution of fibres on the back of Helen's coat, which indicated forcible contact with the carpets in Simms's flat. There were, moreover, two types of carpet fibres on the coat, one of which was only found in Simms's flat, and not in the pub. Furthermore, Helen's trousers were brand new and had never been worn before the day she disappeared, yet they, too, had fibres on them from the carpets in Simms's flat.

But the most glaring omission in Mr Woffinden's article is his failure to mention that Mr Simms's own defence counsel, Mr David Turner, had stated in October 1990 when applying for leave to appeal, that Simms was "physically strong and an expert in Thai boxing, and it could be that he never intended Miss McCourt really serious harm".

Tragically, by supporting Simms and giving him false hope, Mr Woffinden is delaying the moment when Simms finally comes to terms with what he has done. Without Woffinden's intervention, Marie McCourt could now be at peace. Simms could well have told her where Helen's remains have lain since 1988, and Marie could have been able to give her daughter the decent Christian burial which is her right.

kathleen moodie

Billinge, Lancashire
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/a-matter-of-facts-1609886.html
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 01:42:17 AM
A matter of facts by KATHLEEN MOODIE Saturday 4 March 1995 01:02

“Bob Woffinden's report on Ian Simms, the landlord of a Lancashire pub who was jailed for the murder of Helen McCourt ("Burden of proof", 28 January), contains certain inaccuracies and omissions which must be challenged.

It is no secret that Simms consistently lied to the police, his young mistress, his wife and the grieving family of the girl he is convicted of having murdered.

Mr Woffinden claims that there was no animosity between Simms and Helen. But on the Sunday before Helen's disappearance, when Simms had banned Helen from his pub, his language had been obscene and he had told several customers that he hated her. He also believed that Helen had been talking about the late-night drinking sessions at his pub, and about his affair with Tracy Hornby.

One of the arguments which is being advanced to prove Simms's innocence is that Simms has constantly denied that clothes found on a public towpath were his. In fact, Simms did finally admit ownership. It is also the case that Simms's clothes were not found on a towpath, but well away, on a rough track. Simms had had no option but to abandon them when he was disturbed by an Alsatian which had run ahead of its master. Helen's clothes, along with Simms's jacket, were not left in a place where they could easily be discovered: they were well hidden in a place which entailed a steep and difficult descent through a dense covering of shrubs and trees.

It was only after these clothes had been found, a month after Helen had disappeared, that the police were able to cross-match fibres on the clothes with the carpets in Simms's flat. Simms tried to explain away the carpet fibres on Helen's coat by saying that she had often draped her coat over bar stools in his pub. This does not, however, account for the number and distribution of fibres on the back of Helen's coat, which indicated forcible contact with the carpets in Simms's flat. There were, moreover, two types of carpet fibres on the coat, one of which was only found in Simms's flat, and not in the pub. Furthermore, Helen's trousers were brand new and had never been worn before the day she disappeared, yet they, too, had fibres on them from the carpets in Simms's flat.

But the most glaring omission in Mr Woffinden's article is his failure to mention that Mr Simms's own defence counsel, Mr David Turner, had stated in October 1990 when applying for leave to appeal, that Simms was "physically strong and an expert in Thai boxing, and it could be that he never intended Miss McCourt really serious harm".

Tragically, by supporting Simms and giving him false hope, Mr Woffinden is delaying the moment when Simms finally comes to terms with what he has done. Without Woffinden's intervention, Marie McCourt could now be at peace. Simms could well have told her where Helen's remains have lain since 1988, and Marie could have been able to give her daughter the decent Christian burial which is her right.

kathleen moodie

Billinge, Lancashire
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/a-matter-of-facts-1609886.html

BOB WOFFINDEN Saturday 11 March 1995 01:02  Fact check

To answer each of the points raised by Kathleen Moodie (Letters, 4 March) about the perceived inaccuracies and omissions in my article on Ian Simms, the landlord of a Lancashire pub who was jailed for the murder of Helen McCourt, with the requisite care would entail an article almost as long as the original. In my view, however, they are all unfounded.

To take just one point by way of illustration: Ms Moodie writes that the "clothes were not found on a towpath, but well away". This is incorrect. The witness who discovered the clothes testified, "I noticed boots in the middle of the path." As for the suggestion that Simms had no option but to abandon them when disturbed by an Alsatian, the scenario is mind- boggling: Simms must have been running around naked - and yet no one noticed him.

Ms Moodie writes that the most "glaring omission" was to report what happened at the leave to appeal hearing. This, however, is irrelevant. In appealing against both conviction and sentence, an appellant's counsel will routinely advance mutually contradictory arguments. It is one of the absurdities of the system.

Ms Moodie writes that Mrs McCourt cannot be at peace because the case remains unresolved. It remains unresolved because it is a demonstrable miscarriage of justice. Accordingly, it is in her interests, as much of those of Ian Simms and the people of Billinge, that this wrongful conviction is now rectified.

bob woffinden

London WC1
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/letter-fact-check-1610912.html
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 01:49:53 AM
Mother welcomes Simms 'news gag' The Lancashire Evening Telegraph Thursday 1st Jan 1998

THE mother of murder victim Helen McCourt has spoken of her relief following the decision by an Appeal Court judge to prevent Ian Simms, the man convicted of Helen's murder, speaking to journalists.

Marie McCourt travelled to London for the appeal hearing where it was ruled that Ian Simms could not collaborate with campaigning reporter Bob Woffinden to tell his story.

At the hearing, representatives of Home Secretary Jack Straw successfully overturned a previous ruling from December last year which stated that a ban on talking to the media had been unlawful.

Simms, who was convicted of murdering 22-year-old Helen from Billinge in 1989, was being visited at Full Sutton Jail in York by Mr Woffinden.

Following the result, Marie McCourt, said: "Justice has been done and the right result was gained today. Ian Simms claimed last year that the ban on talking to the media was an infringement of his human rights. But what rights does a murderer or rapist give to the victim? Why should these people be allowed to put their story's across the using the media?

"I am so relieved that this chapter is over and hopefully one day Simms will show remorse by telling us where Helen's body is and giving us the human right of giving our daughter a Christian burial."

 
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 02:02:15 AM
This article appeared in 1996 - and was largely the work of Bob Woffinden, a noted journalist dealing in miscarriages of justice. Peter Hill's wrote it, and had his name was attached to it because Bob Woffinden was deeply involved in a court case concerning the problem of visiting prisoners inside jails.

HOME OFFICE UNDER FIRE.
A prisoner considers him or herself to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The appeal has been lost and the judicial processes are exhausted. What can be done? The convict is told that to have the case considered by the Home Office new evidence must be found. That cannot be done from a cell - and it is specialised work. The prisoner needs someone who will re-investigate the case, interviewing witnesses, finding new theories. Most solicitors cannot do any of this without first obtaining legal aid - and that will not be given in such circumstances. The only realistic answer is for the prisoner to contact a journalist who specialises in miscarriages of justice.

This is by no means as straightforward as it might appear, particularly if the prisoner has no family members to help. He or she may write to a particular journalist; but the journalist will usually want to see the prisoner in person before taking the matter further. That would be more than a sine qua non of responsible reporting. There is also an added factor - the journalist will be devoting a large part of his time to the investigation and possibly large amounts of money which can only be recouped if the story "stands up" and an article or a TV programmes is eventually made. So one of the key questions when such an investigative journalist first considers a case is - how truthful and reliable is the convicted person? Is he or she worth the gamble? The best way to decide is to do what Tom Sargant always did - visit the prisoner.

At this key moment in the process the problems begin. The Home Office maintains that a journalist may not visit a prisoner unless he or she first signs an undertaking not to publish any part of the conversation between them, or anything that has been gleaned in the course of the visit. As a device for both emasculating the journalist and preventing the prisoner's case from reaching the outside world and becoming a cause celebre, this ruling is just about foolproof.

Last year I visited Anthony Steel who has been in prison since 1979 for the murder of a young woman in Bradford. I am firmly convinced of his innocence and have worked on his case for some ten years. This was the first time I had ever visited him - and it was not "on business". I was visiting him on a purely personal matter involving his daughter. However, after my visit, a vicious retribution was exacted on Steel - because, I believe, he sent a Visiting Order to someone later identified as a journalist specialising in miscarriages of justice.

Steel was accused of "flashing" a woman from his cell. Without a hearing, he was moved to a tougher prison and put in isolation without any privileges - no mail, no visits. Finally he was moved to a prison more than a hundred miles further from his family. His solicitor investigated the accusation - no accuser was ever produced and the prison priest supplied Steel with an alibi.

A similar case was experienced by my fellow-journalist Bob Woffinden. The author of one of the most authoritative books on the subject - "Miscarriages of Justice" ( 1987), Bob also produced a Channel 4 documentary about the Hanratty case which has led to it being re-opened. In January 1995, he wrote an article for the Independent about the case of Ian Simms, convicted of the murder of Helen McCourt in Billinge, Lancashire, in February 1988. It was a case in which the body was never recovered, and there were many reasons to doubt the conviction, not least the total absence of any motive.

After the article was published, the then-director of the prison service, Derek Lewis, informed Woffinden that in future he would not be allowed to visit Simms, unless he first of all gave an undertaking not to write anything.

Woffinden decided he was not going to sign anything that he wasn't going to be able to honour. The only journalist probing Ian Simm's case, he knew that if he effectively ruled himself hors de combat by agreeing to Derek Lewis's demand, there would have been no one to listen to Simms and help him. Simms received very few visits from anyone other than Woffinden.

It was the prisoner himself who then took the next move. He explained the problem to a solicitor, Adrian Clarke of Bindman's, who took counsel's opinion. The upshot was that Simms sought a judicial review of the actions of the prison authorities and the Home Office. He successfully applied for legal aid to pursue the case, and in July leave was granted. The judicial review will now be heard next month. Derek Lewis's actions actually produced a successful claim for legal aid - something Simms had never even dreamed of.

Another similar action has been joined up with the Simms case. It is the case of a prisoner called Michael O'Brien who was visited by a BBC journalist. O'Brien is one of three convicted of the murder of a Cardiff newsagent, Philip Saunders, in October 1987. A BBC Wales documentary, "Week In Week Out", put a persuasive case for their innocence.

In respect of the inhibitions on journalists publishing anything conveyed to them by prisoners, the Home Office argues, broadly, that there are no restraints on correspondence, or on contacts with a prisoner's family and friends. They add that these channels provide satisfactory and adequate means of communication; and that to allow journalists to visit prisoners would be to invite scurrilous media articles based on interviews with high-profile prisoners, which would cause enormous distress to victims and the bereaved.

For their part, those seeking a review of the rule argue:

- that the present provision in the Prison Rules is technically illegal, because it constitutes a breach of the 1952 Prison Act, which stipulated that prisoners should be allowed as much contact with the outside world as was practicable;

- that it is an unreasonable inhibition on freedom of expression for prisoners;

- that the doctrine of sound reporting is to rely on first-hand testimony; the legal process does not accept hearsay evidence, and neither should professionally rigorous journalists;

- that it is no comfort whatever to victims or the bereaved to have an innocent person imprisoned for crimes against their family. Far from causing additional distress, journalists are simply trying to mitigate it, by ensuring that the investigation of the crime is properly resolved.

- that the present arrangements do little to prevent the high-profile cases from being publicised; and that in any event, most of the truly notorious criminals are Category A prisoners, whose visits are specially screened;

- that a journalist, merely through visiting a prisoner, may come to fulfill a pastoral as well as a journalistic role; thus the Home Office, by cutting off the visits, is also denying the prisoners pastoral care.

Both Simms and O'Brien already appear to have suffered by making this stand and bringing this action. Almost as soon as leave was granted, both were moved to different prisons, in each case further away from family and friends - just as in the case of Anthony Steel.

=======================================================================================================

The judicial review was heard on Thursday 12 December 1996 - and the judges found in favour of Woffinden. However, on a later appeal the decision was reversed. Simms began an appeal to the House of Lords and by May 1998 it seemed certain that the Lords would accept the case for consideration.

The situation regarding the right of prisoners to talk to the Press is still unclear - and recent events concerning a book about a convicted murderess Mary Bell, for which the ( released) convict was paid, has made the situation even less clear.
http://www.roughjusticetv.co.uk/simms.htm
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on November 24, 2019, 03:54:46 PM
Mother welcomes Simms 'news gag' The Lancashire Evening Telegraph Thursday 1st Jan 1998

THE mother of murder victim Helen McCourt has spoken of her relief following the decision by an Appeal Court judge to prevent Ian Simms, the man convicted of Helen's murder, speaking to journalists.

Marie McCourt travelled to London for the appeal hearing where it was ruled that Ian Simms could not collaborate with campaigning reporter Bob Woffinden to tell his story.

At the hearing, representatives of Home Secretary Jack Straw successfully overturned a previous ruling from December last year which stated that a ban on talking to the media had been unlawful.

Simms, who was convicted of murdering 22-year-old Helen from Billinge in 1989, was being visited at Full Sutton Jail in York by Mr Woffinden.

Following the result, Marie McCourt, said: "Justice has been done and the right result was gained today. Ian Simms claimed last year that the ban on talking to the media was an infringement of his human rights. But what rights does a murderer or rapist give to the victim? Why should these people be allowed to put their story's across the using the media?

"I am so relieved that this chapter is over and hopefully one day Simms will show remorse by telling us where Helen's body is and giving us the human right of giving our daughter a Christian burial."

“In 1990 Mr. Simms wrote to Bob Woffinden, a journalist who specialises in the investigation of possible miscarriages of justice. They started to communicate by letters and visits. In late 1994 the Home Secretary became aware that Mr. Woffinden was visiting Mr. Simms. This led to the Governor of H.M.P. Full Sutton informing Mr. Woffinden that he could no longer visit Mr. Simms unless he signed an undertaking in accordance with paragraph 37 not to publish anything that passed between him and Mr. Simms during the visit. On 28 January 1995 Mr. Woffinden wrote an article about Mr. Simms' case which was published in the Independent Magazine. His theme was that no body was ever found and that the supposed victim may simply have disappeared.
https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5b46f1f62c94e0775e7ef193
Title: Re: Ian Simms was convicted of the Helen McCourt murder in 1988.
Post by: Nicholas on February 13, 2020, 11:19:50 AM
“The appeal was brought by Ian Simms, now in Long Lartin prison, serving a life sentence for murder, and Michael O'Brien, a convicted murderer now out on bail pending a new appeal.

Bob Woffinden, an investigative journalist who writes for the Guardian, and Karen Voisey, a BBC Wales producer, had been refused permission to visit Simms and O'Brien respectively unless they agreed to sign the undertaking
https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/jul/09/claredyer
Helen McCourt's murderer Ian Simms walks free despite never revealing what he did with her body after killing the 22-year-old in 1988

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7971761/Helen-McCourts-murderer-Ian-Simms-walks-free-despite-never-revealing-did-body.html

Helen McCourt killer Ian Simms given order preventing him from visiting spots where he may have hidden her body
marie mccourt ian simms from www.wigantoday.net
3 hours ago · Notorious killer Ian Simms faces a 1800 square-mile exclusion zone preventing him from getting anywhere near his victim's family - or the sites where he might have hidden her body.

Marie McCourt, “I can’t give Helen that last goodbye”

https://mobile.twitter.com/BBCBreakfast/status/1225325001487900672