16. The Pearl Earring: No body, no parole?

16. The Pearl Earring: No body, no parole?

By BBC Radio 5 Live

If a killer refuses to reveal where they’ve hidden a body – should they have to stay in prison?

Helen McCourt’s family campaigned for the UK to adopt an Australian-style “no body, no parole” law – but would it be adopted in time to stop the release of her killer?

In 1989 pub landlord Ian Simms was one of the first people in the UK to be convicted on DNA evidence without the victim's body having been found. Sentenced to at least 16 years in jail for Helen's murder, Simms still claims he's innocent.

The jury were convinced by forensic evidence such as traces of Helen's blood which were found in Simms' flat and car. An opal and pearl earring identical to one Helen was wearing when she went missing was also found in the boot of his car.

Although "no body, no parole" might act as a deterrent to some offenders who choose not to reveal where their victim's body is, we also hear hear about concerns that it might interfere with the goals of rehabilitating offenders and reducing re-offending. The 750,000 signatories to a petition supporting Helen's Law believe that the needs of families whose pain continues as long as they have no body to bury should be prioritised.

Helen's mum Marie McCourt hopes that one day she will be able to take flowers to Helen's grave.

Presenters: Dr. Julia Shaw and Sofie Hagen Producers: Paula McGrath and Caroline Steel Assistant Producer: Simona Rata Music: Matt Chandler Series Editor: Rami Tzabar

Commissioning Producer: Hannah Rose Commissioning Executive: Dylan Haskins Commissioning Editor: Jason Phipps

Bad People is a BBC Audio Science Production for BBC Sounds


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