Murder victim’s mother behind Helen’s Law to be honoured at Buckingham Palace

Marie McCourt’s daughter Helen was murdered in 1988 and her body was never found.

Jamel Smith
Wednesday 08 November 2023 02:45 GMT
Helen McCourt with her mother Marie McCourt (Family handout/PA)
Helen McCourt with her mother Marie McCourt (Family handout/PA)

A murder victim’s mother who campaigned to bring in Helen’s Law is set to be honoured at Buckingham Palace.

Marie McCourt, the mother of 22-year-old Helen McCourt – who was murdered after vanishing near their home in St Helens, Merseyside, in 1988, will be made an MBE for services to the families of murdered victims on Wednesday.

Others set to be honoured include Sir Terry Waite, who spent almost five years in captivity after being kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Lebanon, for his services to charity.

The humanitarian, of Hartest, Suffolk, is the co-founder and president of Hostage International, which supports families of those taken captive.

Ian Simms, a local pub landlord, was handed a life sentence in 1989 for Helen McCourt’s murder despite her body never being found, and he was released in 2020 before his death in 2022.

He always maintained his innocence, despite never disclosing where he hid Helen’s body.

Following her daughter’s death, Mrs McCourt’s campaigning led to the Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Act, dubbed Helen’s Law, being enacted in 2021 – which made it harder for killers and paedophiles who hold back information on their victims to receive parole.

She previously spoke to the PA news agency about being made an MBE and said: “All these years I’ve done – it’s nice to see people be given these awards… who have had to do things which have hurt them so much because of the reasons why they want to make sure our laws are right and correct.

I think with Helen, she would just be so delighted that other families may not have to go through what we’ve had to go through

Marie McCourt

“I can see Helen’s face now looking at me from (a photo on) the mantelpiece and she has her hair in rollers and a big smile on her face and the reason was she was getting ready to go for New Year’s Eve.

“I think with Helen, she would just be so delighted that other families may not have to go through what we’ve had to go through.”

As an envoy for the Church of England, Sir Terry travelled to Beirut to try to secure the release of four hostages but was kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991.

He said he was kept in solitary confinement and, when anybody came into the room, he had to put a blindfold over his eyes.

He also faced a mock execution and was beaten.

Speaking to PA previously, Sir Terry said being included in the King’s Birthday Honours list is one of life’s “peak” achievements.

Bishop Derek Webley, the co-chair of the Windrush cross-Government working group, will be made an OBE for services to the Windrush Generation.

Fiona Ellis, chief executive officer of Survivors in Transition, a non-profit group supporting survivors of childhood sexual abuse, will be made an OBE for her services.

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