Mother ‘Elated’ Helen’s Law Will Deny Killers Parole Until Bodies Are Found

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

The mother of murdered Helen McCourt said she is “elated” laws are to finally change so killers are denied parole if they refuse to reveal where they hid their victim’s body.

Marie McCourt has begged murderer Ian Simms to tell her the whereabouts of her daughter’s remains ever since the insurance clerk vanished on her way home from work in 1988.

But the pub landlord, who was convicted by a jury on overwhelming DNA evidence of the 22-year-old’s abduction and murder and is still in jail, has always maintained his innocence.

She campaigned relentlessly to keep Simms behind bars until he helped lead police to her daughter’s body.

MPs voted in favour of the law in 2016 but it had yet to receive Government backing, until Justice Secretary David Gauke announced the move on Saturday.

Helen’s Law will make it a legal requirement for the Parole Board to take into account a killer’s failure to disclose the location of their victim’s remains when considering them for release.

Mrs McCourt, from St Helens, Merseyside, said she hoped it would stop the “torture” of killers “calling the shots” and realise they need to co-operate.

If they do help, it should not automatically mean they can be released, she added.

She told PA: “I feel really elated and quite relieved that it’s finally happening.

“I really can’t believe it. I have been trying for so long

“It has been a terrible stress on me since I started the petition in 2015. It was voted for in Parliament but then it was delayed after the general election.

“I just know Brexit took up too much time in Parliament.

“This law will help so many other families.”

When she marks what would have been her daughter’s 54th birthday later this month, she said it would be with her “heart lifted” in light of the news.

But she said it was still agony being denied the chance to recover her daughter’s remains, adding: “I wrote to him, begging him ‘please, please just tell me and you will not hear from me again’.

“I still hope he will remain in prison until he tells me.

“I hope one day I will know.”

She thanked her “amazing” MP Conor McGinn and Mr Gauke for their support in the campaign and said the wait for change was long but worth it.

Parole Board guidance already says offenders who withhold information may still pose a risk to the public and could therefore face longer in prison.

But Helen’s Law will for the first time make it a legal requirement to consider this withholding of information when making a decision on whether to release an offender, the Ministry of Justice said.

It is hoped the legislation will be brought into force as soon as possible.

Courts can also hand down tougher sentences for murderers who deliberately conceal the location of a body.

Mr Gauke said: “It is a particular cruelty to deny grieving families the opportunity to lay their murdered loved one to rest and I have immense sympathy with Marie McCourt and others in her situation.

“Those responsible should know that if they choose to compound this further through their behaviour, they will be held accountable.”

Read our Comment Piece:
Helen’s Law: What Happens When Juries Believe A Liar?

Sentence cut for ‘monster’ who killed Aldi worker in front of horrified shoppers

A “monster” who stabbed a supermarket worker to death in front of horrified shoppers has had his minimum jail term reduced.

Neville Hord, 45, killed Jodie Willsher, 30, in a frenzied knife attack which he had planned over two weeks because he blamed her for his break-up with her mother.

He admitted murder and was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court in March, with Judge Jonathan Durham Hall ordering him to serve at least 30 years behind bars.

But his minimum term was cut to 27 years on Tuesday by judges sitting at the Court of Appeal in London.

Mr Justice Goose told the court that Hord was in a relationship with Mrs Willsher’s mother, Nicole Dinsdale, for several months before they broke up in September last year.

At the time of the murder he was on bail for an attack on Ms Dinsdale and had made threats to kill her daughter – whom he blamed for the break-up.

The judge said Ms Dinsdale later described the relationship as “controlling” and said he had tried to distance her from her daughter.

Over two weeks he planned the killing, buying two knives, an axe and a crossbow, and even making inquiries about buying a gun.

He also fitted a tracking device to Mrs Willsher’s car and looked up the opening hours of the Aldi supermarket where she worked in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

The judge described how, just four days before Christmas, plumber Hord parked at a nearby McDonald’s and had some food before walking into the busy supermarket with the knife.

He went back to his car to get the axe before returning to Aldi and “calmly” walking around until he found his victim.

He then stabbed the married mother-of-one repeatedly in front of horrified shoppers, in a brutal attack which was captured on CCTV.

Hord continued to stab her even as they both lay on the floor following attempts by onlookers to stop him.

Mrs Willsher suffered five slash wounds and 11 stab wounds to her head and body, one of which bent the knife.

Police found the crossbow in Hord’s vehicle in the Aldi car park along with 50 bolts, a large amount of diesel and cable ties.

Sentencing Hord in March, Judge Hall said: “You are a monster, Mr Hord.”

The judge said the killing was calculated to cause the “maximum pain, horror, shock and trauma” and told Hord he may never be released from prison.

In a statement read to the court at that time, Mrs Willsher’s husband, Malcolm, said he was worried that Hord would get out and harm their four-year-old daughter, Megan.

Lawyers for Hord, who watched his appeal hearing over a video-link from prison, argued that the original sentence was too long.

Mr Justice Goose, sitting with two other judges, said Judge Hall had set “too high” a minimum term.

Double Life killer wins anonymity case after release

silhouetteA convicted murderer sent to a psychiatric hospital has won his Supreme Court battle to keep his identity secret.

The double killer, in his 40s, who can only be referred to as “C”, succeeded in his challenge to a refusal of the Court of Appeal to grant him anonymity in legal proceedings.

C, who has had mental health problems for much of his life, was released from a secure psychiatric unit last October, just days before the Supreme Court began considering his case.

The court was told the Parole Board had agreed to his release on licence, and he was in the process of changing his name to start a new life.

Lady Hale, the court’s deputy president, ruled that an anonymity order was “necessary in the interests of this particular patient”.

The judge described C’s crime as “horrendous” and said it had caused “incalculable distress to the families of the victims”.

But without anonymity there was “a very real risk that the progress he has made during his long years of treatment in hospital would be put in jeopardy and his reintegration in the community, which was an important purpose of his transfer to hospital, will not succeed”.

The anonymity issue arose after C applied for a High Court judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision – made well before C eventually won parole – refusing him unescorted leave in the community.

Stephen Knafler QC, appearing for C, accepted that his crimes – the killing of an ex-girlfriend and her new companion – were “high up on the scale of horrific”.

But Mr Knafler argued legal challenges involving mental health patients should be held in private – or at least with the individual’s identity protected.

The case raised a point of general public importance – whether mental health patients are entitled to anonymity when involved in legal proceedings connected with their detention, care or treatment under the 1983 Mental Health Act, said the QC.

A High Court judge and three appeal court judges rejected the pleas for anonymity.

But five Supreme Court judges – Lady Hale sitting with Lord Clarke, Lord Wilson, Lord Carnwath and Lord Hughes – unanimously allowed C’s last-ditch challenge to the highest court in the land.

Lady Hale said: “There is a long-standing practice that certain classes of people, principally children and mental patients, should not be named in proceedings about their care, treatment and property.”

It would be wrong to presume an order should be made “in every case”, and a balance had to be struck, said the judge.

The public had a right to know what was going on in the courts, particularly in cases involving notorious criminals, and needed to be reassured sensible decisions were being made.

But that “right to know” had to be balanced against the potential harm the disclosure of a patient’s identity could cause to the patient “and perhaps also the hospital, those treating him and other patients”.

The purpose of detention in a psychiatric hospital for treatment was “to make the patient better, so that he is no longer a risk either to himself or to others”.

“That whole therapeutic exercise may be put in jeopardy if confidential information is disclosed in a way which enables the public to identify the patient.”

The judge said victims of crime had certain rights under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004.

“These rights, though limited, should enable the providers (of probation services) to reassure the victims’ families in this case that the arrangements made for the discharge of the patient will not put them at risk in any way.”

Referring to C’s change of name after his case received a high level of media attention, the judge said: “He is much more likely to be able to lead a successful life in the community if his identity is not generally known.

“The risk of ‘jigsaw’ identification, of people putting two and two together, will remain despite the change of name.

“Putting all the factors into the balance, I conclude that an anonymity order is necessary in the interests of this particular patient.”

Kenneth Noye gets parole hearing

Kenneth Noye
Kenneth Noye

Double killer Kenneth Noye, from Kent, could be freed after getting a parole hearing, sparking anger from the parents of one of his young victims.

Noye, 67, was jailed for life in 2000 for the murder of electrician Stephen Cameron, 21, in a road rage attack.

The career criminal had earlier stabbed to death an undercover officer outside his mock Tudor mansion after the £26 million Brink’s Mat bullion heist but successfully pleaded self-defence.

Stephen’s father Ken branded his son’s killer “evil” and said he should die in jail.

Mr Cameron told The Sun: “He left my son dying in the gutter and fled to Spain. I don’t believe for a minute he has changed his ways, it’s a load of old rubbish. He’ll always be a dangerous man.

“Noye should never be allowed out of prison. He is an evil man and has never shown any remorse for what he did.”

Noye stabbed Stephen in the heart and liver with a nine inch knife as the electrician’s 17-year-old fiance screamed for help following a punch up on the M25 Swanley interchange in Kent in May 1996.

He fled to Spain, becoming Britain’s most wanted man and sparking a massive manhunt. He travelled on a false passport and went into hiding for several years, but was eventually tracked down to southern Spain and in 1998 was extradited back to the UK.

The gangster stood trial at the Old Bailey where a huge security operation was put in place amid concerns key witnesses and jurors could be intimidated.

He was found guilty and jailed for life, and was later given a minimum tariff of 16 years.

Noye had already become one of Britain’s most notorious criminals after he was involved in a notorious gold bullion heist at Heathrow Airport in 1983.

The gang stole 6,000 gold bars, diamonds and cash in what was dubbed the “crime of the century”.

Police launched an investigation, which soon focused on Noye’s mansion in Kent. It was in the grounds of this house that Noye stabbed to death undercover officer Detective Constable John Fordham in 1985.

He was cleared of murder after claiming he had killed the officer in self-defence, but was jailed for 14 years for handling stolen bullion.

Mark Leech editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse said the release of life sentence prisoners was a carefully managed process.

Mr Leech said: “Life sentence prisoners have the lowest reconviction rate of any group of former prisoners because their release is a carefully managed process spread across two or three years.

“Of course the families of victims want to see the killers of their loved ones die in jail, I would too, but you can’t base release decisions on that kind of understandable emotion, justice demands impartiality and Kenneth Noye has a right to expect that too.”

Former probation union chief Harry Fletcher told The Sun: “It is unusual for a lifer to be released after the first Parole Board hearing. But it paves the way for their freedom.”

A Parole Board spokeswoman said: “His case has been referred to us.”

Noye was jailed in 2000 and ordered to serve a minimum of 16 years. However, he could be freed by the Parole Board this April because his sentence took into account time he served on remand while standing trial.

The spokeswoman added: “The Parole Board can only direct the release of a life sentence prisoner if it is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for him to be detained in order to protect the public from serious harm and, if it is so satisfied, it is required to release the prisoner.

“Each case is assessed on its own individual merits.”

She said cases such as this were regularly referred to them for consideration once a prisoner has served the minimum term, which Noye now has.

Duchess of York Lifer – Freed in Weeks?

Jane Andrews
Jane Andrews

A murderer who once worked as an aide to Sarah Ferguson could be freed from her life sentence within weeks after applying for early release – but one prisons expert argues it will be at least another three years before she is in any realistic position to be freed.

Jane Andrews, 46, who stabbed her wealthy lover Thomas Cressman to death in a row over marriage, has reportedly applied for release after reaching the minimum 12 years in prison recommended as part of the life sentence she was given in 2001.

Although she will still have to convince a parole board that she is no longer a danger to society, Andrews, who had a similar release request turned down in 2012, could be back on the streets within weeks.

Andrews became a close friend and confidante of the Duchess of York during nine years as her employee – joining her on royal duties both in the UK and abroad.

In 2000, after Mr Cressman refused to get married, she clubbed the 39-year-old businessman unconscious with a cricket bat at their home in Fulham, west London. She then stabbed him to death.

During an argument in the hours before the murder, Cressman called police saying ‘somebody is going to get hurt’, but officers decided not to attend the scene.

Andrews attacked her boyfriend just a few hours later while he was sleeping.

Shortly after the killing, Andrews contacted her ex-husband Christopher Dunn-Butler and sent out text messages to friends inquiring about her lover’s whereabouts and well-being.

She claimed to have had no involvement in Cressman’s death and said she believed he was being blackmailed.

After she disappeared for several days during the police investigation, officers launched a manhunt and finally located her in Cornwall, where she was found overdosed in her car.

After her recovery and a subsequent police interrogation, Andrews was arrested for murder.

During her trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard Andrews had a history of depression and violent mood swings, and had made several suicide attempts and threats.

Speaking to Jeremy Armstrong at the Mirror, Mr Cressman’s brother Rick said he was ‘disappointed’ Andrews was applying for early release.

He said: ‘She remains a seriously dangerous individual and shouldn’t be freed… we have to live the rest of our lives without Tommy. That’s our life sentence.’

Expressing his anger that Andrews was applying for early release again despite being  turned down two years ago, Mr Cressman added: ‘The justice system allows for people who have committed heinous crimes the opportunity to have parole. As a family we can’t do anything about that.’

Andrews is understood to held at Send Prison in in Surrey, having been moved for East Sutton Park open prison after absconding in 2009.

Andrews spent two days on the run before being returned to the prison, although the Crown Prosecution Service said she would not face additional charges after considering psychiatric reports.

The Parole Board confirmed their review was ‘currently ongoing’, adding that Andrews remained in ‘closed conditions’.

Born to a working class family in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, Andrews was 21 when she answered a personal advert in The Lady for a personal dresser.

She was hired by the Duchess of York six months later and was a trusted member of her inner circle until being made redundant in the late 1990s as part of a Buckingham Palace cost-cutting exercise.

Andrews’ murder trial attracted huge media attention at the turn of their millennium, seemingly as much for the glamorous circles she moved in over the previous decade as for the brutal killing itself.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he thought it ‘highly unlikely’ that she would be freed any time soon.

Mr Leech said: “It is highly unlikely she will be freed any time soon even though she is now post-tariff – that is, has served in excess of her minimum term.

“She remains in closed conditions following her abscond from East Sutton Park in 2009, and that in itself is a huge indicator that she is not yet considered suitable to be trusted.

“Realistically I suspect we are looking at a minimum of three more years before she is in any realistic position to be released – and she will have to be tested in an open prison again for at least a couple of years before release becomes any kind of possibility.”

Mark Bridger ‘To Die In Jail’…. or will he?

Mark-Bridger

Paedophile Mark Bridger has joined a group of notorious criminals who have been given whole life sentences for their horrific crimes – but commentators suggest that is likely to be quashed by the Court of Appeal .

Bridger, 47, kidnapped five-year-old April Jones, before sexually abusing her, murdering her and then disposing of her body. Her parents Paul, 41, and Coral, 43, are now coming to terms with the fact that Bridger may never reveal what he did with their daughter.

A heartbreaking victim impact statement from April’s mother also revealed how she will always “live with the guilt” of letting April, who had cerebral palsy, play out the night Bridger snatched her away from her loving family.

Bridger, a former slaughterhouse worker, was given a whole life sentence by trial judge Mr Justice Griffith Williams after he was convicted by a jury at Mold Crown Court of April’s abduction and murder and of perverting the course of justice by unlawfully disposing, destroying or concealing her body. Only 47 other criminals in the UK have been handed such sentences.

Sentencing Bridger, Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: “There is no doubt in my mind that you are a paedophile, who has for some time harboured sexual and morbid fantasies about young girls.”

Police believe Bridger dismembered little April’s body before dumping the body parts at various locations in the hills, rivers and forests surrounding his home in Cienws, mid-Wales, after traces of her blood were found all over his rented cottage.

In her statement, read to the court by Elwen Evans QC, prosecuting, Coral Jones said: “Words alone cannot describe how we are feeling or how we manage to function on a daily basis, and I would never, ever want any other family to go through what we are and will go through for the rest of our lives.”

As the sentence was handed down Bridger, wearing a blue shirt and spotted tie, nodded when he was told he would spend the rest of his life behind bars, but shook his head when the judge called him a paedophile.

In a statement, Ed Beltrami, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wales, said: “Ever since his first interview with police in October last year, Mark Bridger has relentlessly spun a web of lies and half-truths to try and distance himself from the truly horrific nature of the crime he perpetrated. He has refused to take responsibility for what he did to April and has stopped at nothing to try and cover his tracks.”

April’s parents said the family was relieved by the verdict. In a statement read outside court, Coral said: “We are relieved that Mark Bridger has today been found guilty of the murder of our beautiful daughter April. April will be forever in our hearts and we are so moved by the overwhelming support we have had from so many people all over the world.”

Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he wondered how many more victims lay at the door of Mark Bridger.

Mr Leech said: “People just do not wake up at the age of 47 and become child sex killers, there needs to be a serious investigation now into the life of Mark Bridger to discover how many more victims may lay at his door.

“The whole life tariff I suspect may be quashed by the Court of Appeal – particularly when you consider Ian Huntley who murdered two girls and David Bieber who executed one police officer and almost murdered two others are not serving whole life tariffs; Bieber who was initially given a whole life tariff had that was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2006 and substituted for a sentence of 37 years.”

Worcester child killer anonymity lifted

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A man who killed three children he was babysitting and impaled them on garden railings has had his anonymity lifted.

David McGreavy, 62, was jailed for life in 1973 for the murders of four-year-old Paul Ralph and his sisters Dawn, two, and nine-month-old Samantha.

He killed them at their home in Gillam Street, Worcester, in April 1973.

In 2009 a judge imposed a ban on naming him during a hearing to protect him from other prisoners. The High Court has now overturned the ban.

In January, McGreavy made a request to be moved to an open prison and his lawyers had argued that would put his name back in the spotlight and his life at risk.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and media organisations argued the application was legally flawed and wrongly prevented the public from knowing the full facts of the case.

McGreavy was lodging with the family at the house in Gillam Street when he carried out the killings.

‘Monster of Worcester’

Paul had been strangled, Dawn was found with her throat cut, and Samantha died from a compound fracture to the skull.

The killings earned McGreavy the nickname the “Monster of Worcester”.

The anonymity ruling was made in 2009 during a hearing when McGreavy unsuccessfully challenged a ruling that he must remain in Category C prison conditions.

On Wednesday, Guy Vassall-Adams, representing the justice secretary and the media organisations objecting to the ban on naming McGreavy, told the court: “The full facts are exceptionally horrific by even the standard of

“The order restricted the media to saying they were ‘three sadistic murders’ but that doesn’t even give you the half of it.”

Lord Justice Pitchford, sitting in London with Mr Justice Simon, ruled the anonymity order must be discharged.

The High Court heard David McGreavy had been in prison for 40 years, during which time he had been seriously assaulted in 1975 and 1996 by fellow prisoners.

His counsel Quincy Whitaker told the court naming him would put him in more danger from other prison inmates.

Ms Whitaker told the court McGreavy had previously spent two years in an open prison until “hostile media coverage” led to him being returned to closed conditions “for his own safety”.

The court heard McGreavy was first transferred to category D open conditions in 1994 but the transfer to Leyhill Prison in south Gloucestershire broke down after other inmates learned of his offence.

Ms Whitaker said the triple killings were “notorious” but no concerns had been subsequently raised about his behaviour.

Name change possibleThere were “more than reasonable grounds” for a fair parole hearing that could mean him being returned to open conditions, which was a pre-requisite for release from custody, she said.

The judge held out the possibility that in future McGreavy could be allowed a change of name to protect him.

He said McGreavy’s ninth parole review was under way and a hearing could be held later this year.

Since 2007 McGreavy has made a number of failed bids to win parole, the court heard.

The Worcester MP at that time, Mike Foster, called for McGreavy to never be allowed back to the city and described the murders as an “absolutely vile crime”.

McGreavy is currently living in closed conditions in a vulnerable prisoners’ unit

David McGreavy

  • April 1973 – Murders Paul, Dawn and Samantha Ralph
  • Jailed for life later that year
  • 1994 – Transferred to open prison (category D) then back to closed prison conditions (Category C)
  • 2007 – One of a number of bids for parole refused
  • 2009 – Told he must remain in under closed prison conditions and anonymity order granted
  • May 2013 – Anonymity order lifted with ninth parole review underway