THIS weekend marks the 25th anniversary of Helen McCourt's disappearance.

Helen, aged 22 and from Billinge, went missing on a stormy winter's night on February 9, 1988.

In what became the town's most notorious crime of modern times, George and Dragon pub landlord Ian Simms was subsequently jailed for her murder.

Forensic evidence at the trial suggested the attractive insurance clerk was attacked at the pub, on Main Street, Billinge, before her body was bundled into a car.

Where her body was then disposed of, however, has always remained a mystery.

Helen's mother Marie, 69, from Standish Avenue, Billinge, has endured a torturous quarter of a century waiting for her daughter’s body to be found.

In the aftermath of Helen's disappearance in 1988, hundreds joined in searches for her body.

The official operations ultimately concluded, but Marie's quest went on as she searched landscapes across the North West at weekends.

These days, the searches are not as frequent, but if the anguished mother is told about a secluded area where, as she says a "car could have been parked and a body hidden", she will still make a visit.

She desperately seeks to find Helen's remains and give her a Christian burial.

Over the decades she has frequently spoke with this newspaper, insisting she will never give up the search.

In a previous interview she said: "The remains of bodies have been found after 30 to 40 years, so it does happen. I will never give up, my son Michael won't and my husband John won't.

"It just seems so cruel and nothing will take away the pain. I want to be able just to go and put flowers on her grave.

"Then I will still be able to do the basic parenting of looking after your child's grave.

"I often look back at some of the pictures and see that smile of hers, but it is not a case of remembering, I cannot forget."

Simms, now aged in his 50s, has always maintained his innocence. He has served more than 24 years in prison for Helen McCourt's murder and has had applications for parole rejected.

In 2003, an application for his case to be referred to the Court of Appeal was rejected by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.