ST HELENS North MP Conor McGinn is demanding an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice after Helen McCourt's murderer Ian Simms was pictured out of jail on temporary release.

Pub landlord Simms abducted and murdered insurance clerk Helen, 22, from Billinge. She vanished on her way home from work in February 1988.

He denied being responsible but a jury at Liverpool Crown Court convicted him amid overwhelming DNA evidence as he was jailed for life and told he would have to serve at least 16 years before he could be considered for parole.

The refusal of Simms to reveal the whereabouts of her remains have kept him locked up beyond the minimum tariff, but it was reported at the weekend he is being allowed short periods out of open prison as he prepares to be released on probation.

Simms, who maintains his innocence, was photographed recently waiting for a bus in Birmingham and told the Daily Mail newspaper: "If I knew where the body was I would never have done 16 years extra in prison, would I?"

St Helens Star: Helen McCourt was murdered in 1988

The reports have sparked a public outcry and led to renewed calls for Helen's Law, which would see a murderer, who refuses to reveal the whereabouts of his or her victim's body, remain in prison.

Mr McGinn wants an urgent meeting with Justice Secretary David Gauke.

He said: "For 31 years, Marie McCourt has been tormented because the man who murdered her beloved daughter refuses to reveal the location of Helen’s remains.

"Now Marie and the McCourt family have the added pain of seeing Ian Simms walk the streets and enjoy freedom. It is an appalling affront to common decency and any sense of justice.

"I spoke to Marie this (Saturday) morning and on her behalf have sought an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice. The law must change.

"This man and others like him should never be released. We need Helen’s Law."

Helen's mother, Marie, has campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he provides information which would lead to the recovery of her daughter's body.

In October 2016 MPs voted in favour of a new "Helen's Law" to deny killers parole if they will not reveal where victims' remains are but it has yet to receive the Government backing it needs to become law.

In February 2017 Justice Minister Phillip Lee told the Commons that such a move risked creating "perverse incentives" for murderers to lie about where their victims were buried, causing further "unthinkable" pain for families of those killed.

Dr Lee added that the Government was examining other ways to address the issue.

Mrs McCourt's Helen's Law petition on has so far received nearly 580,000 signatures.

She argues that denying a funeral is an infringement of basic human rights.

On hearing of the temporary release of Simms, Mrs McCourt said: "Why should he be allowed his freedom when I still haven't been able to bury my daughter after all these years?

"He should not be afforded any days out - he's a dangerous, evil killer. It is heaping more misery on our suffering.

"All I've ever wanted is to give her a decent Christian burial. We urgently need Helen's Law to stop Simms and other killers like him, who won't tell us where our loved ones' bodies are buried, from ever being released."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said it could not comment on individual cases.