Helen McCourt’s mum last night reacted with fury to the decision to free her daughter’s killer, saying: “The justice system treated him like a victim”.

Marie McCourt has vowed to fight the parole of murderer Ian Simms, 63, who could be released by Christmas, despite his refusal to reveal the location of Helen’s body.

The Parole Board admitted that Simms’s silence has caused “distress and misery” for Helen’s family, but still ignored Marie’s pleas.

Judges said Simms is so convinced of his innocence there is “no prospect” of him confessing. Marie launched her No Body No Parole campaign, which led to Helen’s Law, in the Mirror.

She told us: “I’m devastated. It’s almost like they feel Simms is the victim.

“The justice system is weighted in favour of the criminals. There should be more sympathy for victims – we are not being considered at all. We have 21 days to challenge this decision, which I intend to do.”

Marie McCourt, mother of Helen McCourt, has voiced her anger
Helen McCourt's body has never been found since her disappearance in 1988

There is a three-week period during which the Justice Secretary can start an appeal. It is understood this deadline means Simms will not be released before December 12.

Pub landlord Simms killed insurance clerk Helen, 22, in Billinge, near Wigan, in 1988.

Marie has spent 32 years looking for her body. Simms, who was jailed for life for a minimum of 16 years, refuses to co-operate with police.

Helen’s Law will be introduced next year. It means parole judges are obliged to consider the impact of killers’ refusal to reveal the location of their victims’ bodies.

Ian Simms murdered Helen McCourt in the 1980s but still hasn't said where her body is

But it will come too late for Simms, whose seventh parole was hearing on November 8.

Yesterday, the parole board revealed it has ruled he is safe for release.

They said that they “carefully considered” the “lack of empathy” showed by hiding Helen’s body.

The judges said: “The panel concluded there is no prospect of Mr Simms ever disclosing the whereabouts of his victim even if he were kept in prison until he died.”

Simms’s denial means that he has not been able to finish any “accredited offending behaviour programmes”. But two psychologists, one paid for by Simms’s legal team, recommended him for release nonetheless.

Marie McCourt and Peter Faulding, head of Specialist Group International (SGI) search Hollins Green Cheshire woodland for Helen's body

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The parole judges said Simms has shown a “considerable change” in behaviour.

But Marie responded: “What change? He has never shown remorse for the murder of my daughter. And he has never revealed what he did with her body. I urge the next government to introduce Helen’s Law as a matter of urgency.”

A spokeswoman said: “The Parole Board must make its decisions solely focused on whether a prisoner would represent a significant risk to the public after release. Public safety is the number-one priority.”