The haunting sto­ries that prove killers should NEVER be freed if they refuse to re­veal where they hid the bod­ies

Daily Mail - - News - by Fiona Duffy

PRIS­onS Min­is­ter Rory Ste­wart an­nounced last week that killers who refuse to re­veal where they have hid­den their vic­tims’ bod­ies will face ex­tra pun­ish­ment.

The pledge to tackle the ‘ ab­so­lutely dis­gust­ing prac­tice’, which com­pounds the mis­ery of griev­ing fam­i­lies, fol­lows a lengthy cam­paign for ‘Helen’s Law’ led by Marie McCourt. Her daugh­ter Helen was mur­dered 30 years ago. Her killer has con­stantly re­fused to re­veal where he hid her body.

as well as le­gal mea­sures to pun­ish those who with­hold in­for­ma­tion, pa­role board rules are ex­pected to be tight­ened, pre­vent­ing early re­lease — a change re­sult­ing in a ‘no body, no pa­role’ pol­icy.

Here Mrs McCourt and five fel­low cam­paign­ers speak about the life sen­tences im­posed on them by their loved ones’ killers.

WE SEARCHED FOR HER WITH OUR BARE HANDS

hElEn McCoURt, 22, an in­sur­ance clerk from Wi­gan, lan­cashire, van­ished on Fe­bru­ary 9, 1988. Pub land­lord ian Simms, now 63, was con­victed of her mur­der and sen­tenced to life in prison with a min­i­mum of 16 years. her mother, Marie McCourt, 74, says: THe prospect of bury­ing a child would be most par­ents’ worst night­mare, but it’s all I want. I want to place flow­ers be­neath a head­stone that ac­knowl­edges Helen’s short life.

I want to know ex­actly where she is, safe and at peace. The not know­ing is tor­tur­ous, like a tap con­tin­u­ally drip­ping onto our heads from which there’s no es­cape.

even af­ter 30 years, the first thing I do on wak­ing, every sin­gle morn­ing, is switch on the news to see if a body has been found.

Helen went miss­ing on her way home from work, a route which in­volved walk­ing past the pub where Simms, a mar­ried fa­ther of two, was land­lord.

Foren­sic searches un­cov­ered one of her earrings in the boot of his car and traces of her blood were found in the pub’s pri­vate quar­ters. Po­lice also no­ticed Simms had scratch marks on his face

He was charged with mur­der five days af­ter her dis­ap­pear­ance. a month later Helen’s clothes, con­tain­ing fi­bres from the pub car­pet, and a knot­ted flex which was traced back to the pub and con­tained strands of her hair, were found by a river­bank.

But, even once he was con­victed of her mur­der in March 1989, Simms re­fused to tell us what he’d done with her body.

When the po­lice searches were scaled down we car­ried on. We pored over ord­nance Sur­vey maps, hired dig­ging equip­ment and snif­fer dogs and spent years search­ing rat­in­fested drains, crawl­ing through sew­ers and pipes, drain­ing ponds and even clear­ing rub­ble-filled mine shafts with our bare hands.

even­tu­ally, in 1992, I wrote to Simms beg­ging him to re­veal where my daugh­ter is, but he re­fused. Time is run­ning out as he’s had es­corted vis­its from prison, paving the way for his re­lease.

We re­ally need to get Helen’s Law in place, not just for my fam­ily’s sake, but for all griev­ing fam­i­lies in the same po­si­tion.

Killers who refuse to re­veal where their vic­tims’ re­mains are should never be con­sid­ered for pa­role un­til they co-op­er­ate.

SHE WAS THROWN AWAY LIKE RUB­BISH

JEnnY niCholl, 19, dis­ap­peared on thurs­day, June 30, 2005, af­ter leav­ing her fam­ily home in Rich­mond, north York­shire, for a night out with friends. her mother, ann nicholl, 62, says: THe hard­est thing about not know­ing what my daugh­ter’s killer did with her body is the thought that the child I gave life to, brought into the world, and loved, has been thrown away like she didn’t mat­ter. Jenny did — and does — mat­ter.

She would be 32 now and is al­ways in our thoughts. We still gather as a fam­ily and raise a toast to her on spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

Be­fore she left that even­ing, she men­tioned she might not be home that night, which wasn’t un­usual. Like many teenagers she had a busy so­cial life and of­ten stayed over with friends.

How­ever, when she didn’t re­turn home on the Satur­day morn­ing, to get ready to go to her job in a su­per­mar­ket, alarm bells rang. I called all her friends and left mes­sages on her phone be­fore re­port­ing her miss­ing.

Days af­ter Jenny’s dis­ap­pear­ance, my hus­band Brian and two of her friends re­ceived texts from her phone say­ing she had left home to live with a boyfriend.

Cru­elly, this gave us false hope that she was still alive, but de­tec­tives sus­pected they weren’t from Jenny at all.

Five months af­ter her dis­ap­pear­ance, po­lice said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion had turned into a mur­der in­quiry. David Hodg­son, a 48- year- old mar­ried fa­ther of two from Rich­mond, was the main sus­pect.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that the mes­sages had been sent from Cum­bria and Scot­land, and Hodg­son had been in those spe­cific ar­eas on those dates, hav­ing hired a car.

Hodg­son was con­victed of Jenny’s mur­der in Fe­bru­ary 2007 and sen­tenced to life. He was told he must serve a min­i­mum of 18 years be­fore ap­ply­ing for pa­role.

We only dis­cov­ered dur­ing the trial that Jenny had been in a re­la­tion­ship with him.

The mis­ery he has in­flicted on us has been com­pounded by his re­fusal to say what he did with our daugh­ter’s body.

De­spite po­lice dis­cov­er­ing Jenny’s child­hood teddy bear and stereo buried in wood­land, we are no closer to know­ing where she is. There has been no fu­neral, no chance to say good­bye. The man has no con­science: How could he treat her like she was just a piece of rub­bish? Helen’s Law might mean we could at least bury her with the love, re­spect and dig­nity she de­serves.

NOT KNOW­ING IS LIKE THE WORST TOR­TURE

DaniEllE JonES, 15, from East til­bury, Es­sex, van­ished on the morn­ing of Mon­day, June 18, 2001, af­ter leav­ing for school. her un­cle, Stu­art Camp­bell, is serv­ing a life sen­tence for her ab­duc­tion and mur­der. Mum linda, 57, says: Hav­Ing no idea what hap­pened to my daugh­ter is the worst form of

tor­ture any par­ent could imag­ine. We have pho­tos of Danielle ev­ery­where and not a day goes by when I don’t think: ‘What would you be do­ing now?’

She was in Year 10, study­ing for GCSEs, with dreams of be­com­ing a nurs­ery nurse, when she van­ished. I knew some­thing was very wrong when the school called to say she hadn’t ar­rived that morn­ing. Danielle wasn’t a rule breaker. Wit­nesses said she had been seen get­ting into a blue van — sim­i­lar to one driven by her un­cle, Stu­art Camp­bell.

He was charged with her mur­der five months later. We had to break the news to our ten and 13-yearold sons that, not only was their sis­ter dead, but their un­cle was re­spon­si­ble. It was hor­ren­dous.

The mur­der trial at Chelms­ford Crown Court in 2002 heard that Camp­bell — who was mar­ried to my hus­band Tony’s sis­ter — had de­vel­oped an ‘ir­re­sistible sex­ual at­trac­tion’ to Danielle. Searches at his home had re­vealed a pair of blood- stained stock­ings with DNA match­ing both Camp­bell and Danielle and a diary which re­vealed his ob­ses­sion with teenage girls.

He had also sent a text from her phone to his, pre­tend­ing to be her.

He was found guilty of her ab­duc­tion and mur­der and sen­tenced to life, with a min­i­mum of 20 years be­fore be­ing el­i­gi­ble for pa­role.

He has never spo­ken about why he killed my daugh­ter or what he did with her body.

Her brothers have never wanted to cel­e­brate achieve­ments, such as pass­ing ex­ams or driv­ing tests, con­scious that their sis­ter never got to do these things.

We are tor­mented by the thought of Camp­bell be­com­ing el­i­gi­ble for pa­role in four years.

If he con­tin­ues to refuse to tell us where she is he should stay in jail for ever.

DAD WON’T TELL US WHAT HAP­PENED

MuM-of-one Ca­role Pack­man, 40, van­ished from her home in Bournemouth, Dorset, in June 1985. Her hus­band, Rus­sell Caus­ley, is serv­ing a life sen­tence for her mur­der. Daugh­ter Sa­man­tha Gilling­ham, 49, who was 16 when her mother dis­ap­peared, says: MY DAD and I came back from a day out in Lon­don to find a note in the kitchen, sup­pos­edly from Mum, say­ing: ‘I’ve had enough. I’ve left and I’m not com­ing back.’ On top of the note was her wed­ding ring.

Mum had been un­happy ever since Dad moved a col­league, Pa­tri­cia, into our home the pre­vi­ous year — he claimed she needed some­where to live, but it was clear they were hav­ing an af­fair.

I ran up­stairs to Mum’s bed­room where the wardrobe doors were open but ev­ery­thing — her clothes, jew­ellery and pass­port — were still there. Dad and Pa­tri­cia in­sisted Mum was ‘do­ing her mar­tyr­dom act’ and would be back. But I never saw her again.

We re­ported her dis­ap­per­ance to po­lice, but heard noth­ing. Shortly af­ter­wards, Dad and Pa­tri­cia asked me to move out, so I went to live with my boyfriend, Neil, who is now my hus­band.

Over Christ­mas din­ner in 1987 Dad an­nounced he’d taken Pa­tri­cia’s sur­name, Caus­ley, and that Mum had vis­ited a po­lice sta­tion, re­port­ing that she was fine but wanted noth­ing to do with her fam­ily. I felt hurt but ac­cepted it. Things must have been aw­ful for her.

Eight years later, a bizarre turn of events meant po­lice be­gan to look more closely into Mum’s dis­ap­pear­ance. Dad faked his own death in a life in­sur­ance scam, for which he was jailed for fraud.

When po­lice were un­able to trace Mum to break the news of dad’s ‘death’ they be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing. They dis­cov­ered that she had been to see a so­lic­i­tor about fil­ing for divorce just be­fore she dis­ap­peared.

Dad was con­victed of her mur­der and sen­tenced to life — twice. The orig­i­nal 1996 con­vic­tion was quashed by the Court of Ap­peal, and he was re­tried in 2004.

Af­ter the sec­ond con­vic­tion, at Ex­eter Crown Court, the judge said: ‘Not only did you kill your wife and some­how dis­pose of her body, you left your daugh­ter in a per­ma­nent state of ig­no­rance as to her mother’s fate.’

Foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions have found no trace of my mother, and Dad con­tin­u­ing to refuse to re­veal where she is adds in­sult to the ter­ri­ble in­jury he has done us all. This week marks the 33rd an­niver­sary of Mum’s mur­der but the grief is still raw and con­tin­u­ous.

Even my own son, Neil, 28, has been af­fected. At school, he was so bul­lied by other chil­dren taunt­ing him with ‘your grandad’s a psy­chopath’ that we had to home­school him.

I’ve writ­ten to my fa­ther many times beg­ging for the truth but all my let­ters are re­turned.

By with­hold­ing the truth, killers like my fa­ther are con­tin­u­ing to com­mit other crimes — pre­vent­ing a law­ful burial, hid­ing a body and ob­struct­ing a coro­ner.

Surely these of­fences should be taken into ac­count as well?

A ‘no body, no pa­role’ law is long over­due.

KILLER TOOK EVIL SE­CRET TO GRAVE

MiCHelle GunSHon, 38, a se­cu­rity of­fi­cer and mother-ofthree from lon­don, was work­ing away at an event at Birm­ing­ham neC when she went miss­ing in 2004. Her killer died in prison with­out re­veal­ing what he had done with her body. Michelle’s daugh­ter, Tracy Richard­son, 34, of Swin­ton, Greater Manch­ester, says: WHEN Mum’s boss called me on De­cem­ber 5, 2004, to say she hadn’t turned up for work, I knew im­me­di­ately that some­thing ter­ri­ble had hap­pened be­cause she was al­ways so re­li­able.

The next few days were a blur, but with each minute that passed the dread in­ten­si­fied — I knew she wouldn’t have just walked out on me and my two brothers.

Then, two days later, po­lice found Mum’s car aban­doned with her flu­o­res­cent work jacket in the boot. There were traces of her blood on it.

Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions re­vealed that Martin Stafford, then 36, a glass col­lec­tor who lived at the pub where Mum was lodg­ing, had dis­ap­peared at around the time she van­ished, be­fore flee­ing to Ire­land three days later.

They even­tu­ally traced him in Ire­land where he was in cus­tody await­ing trial for rape, a crime com­mit­ted just three months af­ter Mum’s mur­der.

He was con­victed in Fe­bru­ary 2007 and sen­tenced to nine years. It was seven long years since my mother went miss­ing be­fore he was ex­tra­dited to the UK in De­cem­ber 2011 to stand trial for her mur­der.

Stafford, then 44, ap­peared at Birm­ing­ham Crown Court in July 2012, charged with mur­der, rape, false im­pris­on­ment, ob­struct­ing a coro­ner and pre­vent­ing the burial of a body.

The court was told that he had been spot­ted on CCTV walk­ing be­side Mum on the night she dis­ap­peared. His se­men was also found on the pas­sen­ger seat of her Ford Es­cort.

He was con­victed of all charges and sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment, to serve a min­i­mum of 33 years.

I’d hoped that he would do at least one de­cent thing and tell us what he’d done with Mum’s body.

How­ever, in the cru­ellest twist of fate, Stafford died in prison in Novem­ber 2015, tak­ing his se­cret with him to the grave.

So, we are left with no grave or spe­cial place to re­mem­ber Mum. The clos­est thing we have is the last place she was seen, near the bus sta­tion in Birm­ing­ham.

So, every an­niver­sary, birth­day, Mother’s Day and Christ­mas, for years, I took flow­ers there and

made a prom­ise to Mum that I would find her. How­ever, af­ter 13 years, and with her killer now dead, the chances are slim.

I WILL NEVER GIVE UP THE HUNT FOR MY BELOVED SON’S BODY

Jonathan Dolton, 20, was killed in 2002 by a col­league, Ste­wart Martin, who has since died with­out re­veal­ing what he did with the body. Jonathan’s mum, Sheila Dolton, 66, a re­tired civil ser­vant, says: AF­TER leav­ing school, Jonathan moved to Mil­ton Keynes to work for a com­puter firm be­fore leav­ing to set up a busi­ness with Ste­wart Martin, who was then 38.

On Fe­bru­ary 25, 2002, we re­ceived a call from one of Jonathan’s col­leagues to say he hadn’t turned up for work and wasn’t an­swer­ing his phone.

My hus­band, Alan, 69, drove to his home and called the po­lice. How­ever, be­cause Jonathan was an adult, they waited three days be­fore in­ves­ti­gat­ing his dis­ap­pear­ance. Dur­ing that time Martin fled to France, then Aus­tralia, mak­ing it pretty ob­vi­ous he had some­thing to do with Jonathan’s disp­pear­ance.

Af­ter a month I be­gan to ac­cept that some­thing ter­ri­ble had hap­pened to our son. He would never have put us through such mis­ery.

Ste­wart was fi­nally cap­tured in Mel­bourne two years later, charged with Jonathan’s mur­der and ex­tra­dited to the UK.

His trial at Read­ing Crown Court in De­cem­ber 2004 heard that he was very bul­ly­ing to­wards Jonathan, and was even seen punch­ing him on one oc­ca­sion. A friend of Martin’s also tes­ti­fied that he had ad­mit­ted killing Jonathan dur­ing a row about a girl­friend.

How­ever, Martin’s bar­ris­ter ar­gued that he had acted in self-de­fence, when Jonathan ran at him with a knife. We were stunned when the judge in­structed the jury to find Martin not guilty of mur­der, but guilty of man­slaugh­ter.

How could any­one ‘ac­ci­den­tally’ kill some­one, then cru­elly hide their body and refuse to re­veal where it is?

Des­per­ate to give my son a proper burial, I stepped up my searches which con­tinue to this day.

I pore over maps then, every few weeks, when I’ve saved enough money, I catch a bus to Mil­ton Keynes, book into a cheap ho­tel, then spend days search­ing deep into thick­ets and bram­ble — anywhere a body could be hid­den.

Four years later, in De­cem­ber 2008, at Jonathan’s in­quest, we were al­lowed to ad­dress Martin. I im­plored him to tell us where our son was.

‘We want him back. We have an empty grave and a head­stone,’ I told him. But he re­fused to even look at us, telling the coro­ner that he ‘didn’t wish to an­swer’.

In Fe­bru­ary 2009, just over four years af­ter his con­vic­tion, Martin was re­leased on li­cence and moved to Portsmouth. Had Helen’s Law been in place that would never have been al­lowed to hap­pen.

The fol­low­ing sum­mer, in June 2010, the po­lice called with the news that Martin had died of a heart at­tack, aged 47.

His fam­ily were able to give him a fu­neral. We still have no idea where our son is.

to Sign Marie’s pe­ti­tion for helen’s law, visit change.org /he­lenslaw. to sup­port the cam­paign, visit the helen’s law page on Face­book.

Danielle: Mur­dered by her un­cle

Jonathan: Killed by a col­league

Ca­role: Mur­dered by her hus­band

Helen: Her cam­paign­ing mum Marie is be­hind Helen’s Law

Michelle: Mum-of-three killed by pub worker

Jenny: Had re­la­tion­ship with her killer

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