A major new documentary featuring the disappearance and murder of tragic Helen McCourt has prompted fresh public offers of help
Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories this week dedicated an entire hour-long programme to the notorious case which saw Billinge pub landlord Ian Simms jailed for the 22-year-old insurance clerk’s killing even though her body had not been discovered.
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More than three decades later and the whereabouts of Helen’s remains are still unknown. Searches by her family go on and mum Marie is also campaigning for a legislation change nicknamed Helen’s Law which would prevent murderers from ever being freed from prison if they fail to disclose their missing victim’s whereabouts.
And in the hours after the ITV show, another 2,000 people signed Marie’s online petition, taking the total to 481,000 names.
Two viewers also got in touch with the Wigan Post, suggesting possible new North West sites where Helen’s body may lie.
The paper has since passed on both suggestions to Merseyside Police’s cold case team for further examination.
Reader Steve Dawson emailed saying that around the time Helen disappeared (February 9 1988), redevelopment of the former Mosley Common colliery site was taking place and he recalls that pit shafts were open to the elements. He also points out that the area is en route to Irlam where Helen’s clothes and a piece of electrical flex, thought to be the murder weapon, were found.
And Gaynor Sinclair suggests an a remote area off the Rainford Bypass near Skelmersdale and Bickerstaff known as The Moss, reached by a track near the now closed Horseshoe pub on Liverpool Road. A former opencast mine, it features a remote woodland and lake.
Mrs McCourt knows as much about the case as any police officer and says that the Mosley Common site is unlikely because there would have been coal dust found on Simms’s clothing or body and there was none.
However, the fact that Ms Sinclair mentions clay soil in the vicinity of The Moss does not so quickly eliminate it.
She added: “I am so grateful to all those people who, after 31 years, are still coming forward with information that they think would help.
“I am dubious about Mosley Common but even though searches were made in the Rainford, Bickerstaff and Skelmersdale areas, there is a possibility that The Moss offers a new line of inquiry.”
Mrs McCourt also thanked those who had added their name to her petition. She felt she was making progress with it after meeting justice secretary
David Gauke who appeared amenable to the Helen’s Law premise, but worries that Brexit and possible leadership and general elections could blow the campaign off course.
The Judge Rinder episode can be viewed on catch-up.