Police exhume grave in hunt for Helen McCourt

The graveyard at Billinge Church behind Squires Bar
The graveyard at Billinge Church behind Squires Bar
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Police were today exhuming a Billinge churchyard in the hunt for long-missing murder victim Helen McCourt.

A quarter of a century since the Billinge insurance clerk vanished and a local pub landlord was jailed for her slaying, detectives were today hoping for the breakthrough the victim’s family are desperate for.

Helen’s mum Marie admitted this morning that she had been pushing for the excavation for a particular grave which had been open on Tuesday, February 9, 1988 but only closed for a burial two days later.

Detectives were today carrying out an exhumation at St Aidan’s Church, Billinge.

Authority to carry out the exhumation has been granted by the Ministry of Justice, HM Coroner for St Helens and the Bishop of Liverpool’s Registry and with the agreement of the family who own the plot.

Helen McCourt’s family are aware of the intelligence and the exhumation.

Det Chief Supt Tim Keelan, said: “It is 25 years since Helen McCourt went missing in February 1988. Ian Simms was subsequently convicted of her murder in 1989.

“But sadly for the family their suffering has been made worse over the years due to the fact that Helen’s body has never been found and they have been denied the opportunity to give her a proper burial.

“We are acting on information suggesting that Helen’s body could have been placed in this particular grave, and with the agreement of the family who own this grave and following approval from the relevant authorities we are now seeking to determine if this is the case.”

He added: “I would like to say particular thanks to the family of those in the grave, who, put their reservations to one side to support Merseyside Police in relation to the intelligence we received. They have displayed a very altruistic attitude based on their desire to provide a conclusion to the family of Helen McCourt, who have suffered from not knowing where she is for almost 25 years.”