A murder victim’s mother said she was “shocked” her daughter’s killer has been allowed out of prison on temporary release.
Ian Simms abducted and murdered Helen McCourt in 1988, but has never revealed the location of her body.
Ms McCourt’s mother Marie told the BBC she was “angry” not to have been informed Simms had been allowed “in the public domain”.
The Ministry of Justice said it did not comment on individual cases.
Mrs McCourt has led a campaign to introduce “Helen’s Law” to block parole for killers who conceal the whereabouts of their victims’ bodies.
Simms was photographed waiting for a bus in Birmingham by the Daily Mail.
He has never revealed the location of 22-year-old Ms McCourt’s remains, maintaining he is innocent despite DNA evidence.
Mrs McCourt said: “I was shocked when I saw his face because I don’t know what this man looks like […] especially because he has been in for 31 years now.”
She added she was also “relieved” as “that picture of him gives me at least some idea of what this man is like”.
“But I am also angry because I want to know – and I will be getting in touch with probation on Monday – why I wasn’t informed that he is in the public domain,” Mrs McCourt said.
Her daughter vanished in February 1988 on her way home from her work as an insurance clerk.
Simms, whose pub was just yards from her home in Billinge, near St Helens, quickly became a suspect and he was convicted after her earring was found in his car boot.
He was jailed for life in 1989 and told he would have to serve at least 16 years before he could be considered for parole.
Last year, Mrs McCourt was told Simms had been outside his open prison – where he had been moved in 2016 – while accompanied by prison officers.
At the time she said a parole board officer had told her a prison governor intended to allow Simms to visit a town centre without supervision.
Mrs McCourt’s MP Conor McGinn, who represents St Helens North, said he had “asked for an urgent meeting with the justice secretary” to discuss the case “but also to get some clarity” on the government’s response to the Helen Law’s campaign.
Mrs McCourt said she remained “hopeful that we will get Helen’s Law but I really do think that parliament and ministers have to work a lot quicker”.
Helen’s Law campaign
- In October 2016, MPs voted in favour of a new “Helen’s Law” to deny killers parole if they will not reveal the location of their victims’ remains but it has yet to receive the government backing it needs to become law.
- In February 2017, Justice Minister Phillip Lee said such a move risked creating “perverse incentives” for murderers to lie about the burial places, causing further “unthinkable” pain for victims’ families.
- Dr Lee added that the government was examining other ways to address the issue.
- More than 580,000 people have signed a petition in support of the law.