A Billinge mum's quest to find her murdered daughter's remains was given a fresh glimmer of hope today after the discovery of a body in Manchester.
On the 22nd anniversary of Helen McCourt's disappearance, police told the family that they could not rule out that the skeleton of a young woman unearthed on a Collyhurst building site was that of the Billinge insurance clerk.
It is understood that several other missing women from over the decades are likelier to provide detectives with a match, but DNA samples and dental details will be compared with Helen's and her relatives now face
an agonising wait of several weeks.
Mum Marie has taught herself not to raise her hopes too highly, after so many false dawns. But each time her dreams of closure have been shattered it is Helen's killer Ian Simms whom she bitterly reviles for not revealing where he left his victim.
The former landlord of the George and Dragon pub in Billinge is still languishing in jail, refusing even to admit his guilt in the notorious killing.
He is due to face another parole hearing in the spring of next year, but Mrs McCourt said he should never even be considered for release until he puts the family's minds at rest once and for all.
Det Chief Inspector Jeff McMahon, of the Major Incident Team, said: "This woman's death is highly suspicious and we have a team of trained detectives trying to establish who she is and what has happened to her. We are reviewing all relevant missing person reports in an attempt to identify her but if you have any knowledge about the items of clothing we have recovered, I would urge you to get in touch.
"Until we are able to establish further facts it would be inappropriate to speculate on how long this woman has been dead or how exactly she died.
"Any information that can help us can be treated in strict confidence."
At home in Standish Avenue, Billinge, Mrs McCourt said: "Each time a body is found we are given new hope and each time so far, those hopes have been cruelly dashed. I hold only one person responsible for that: Ian Simms."