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WITH VIDEO: McCourt family 'hopeful' Helen will be found as grave exhumed
A COMMUNITY was on edge as the Star went to press amid hope that the mystery surrounding the remains of murder victim Helen McCourt could finally be solved.
In a dramatic twist in what has been an agonising 25-year wait for her mother Marie, police began an exhumation of graves at St Aidan’s Church, Billinge.
Officers confirmed they were acting on intelligence, linked to the disappearance and murder of Helen in February 1988, which states she is buried in the graveyard.
Work at the site, with the help of forensic scientists and local authority gravediggers, began on Tuesday (October 15) and large forensic tents could be seen over graves yesterday.
Police say officers “will be working with other specialists dependent upon any recovery”.
Ian Simms, who was convicted of killing Helen, remains in Garth prison, Preston, and has always maintained his innocence.
He was the landlord of the George and Dragon pub, on Main Street, which is just five minutes’ walk from St Aidan’s, at the time Helen was killed.
The intelligence being used by police did not come from Simms, whose latest parole hearing last month was not completed and will resume next year.
Authority to carry out the exhumation by the Ministry of Justice, HM Coroner for St Helens and the Bishop of Liverpool’s Registry. The family who own the plot agreed to the search.
Helen’s family are aware of the intelligence and the exhumation.
Marie, 70, who still lives in Billinge, was said to be “hopeful and apprehensive”.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Keelan said: “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.”
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