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Down man Leslie Ross in dock accused of murdering Michelle Bickerstaff and Margaret Weiss

By John Cassidy

Published 15/09/2015

Leslie Ross
Leslie Ross
Michelle Bickerstaff
Margaret Weise

A jury has been sworn in for the trial of a Co Down man accused of murdering two women.

The jury of seven women and five men were given little or no background to the case - save that 67-year-old Leslie Ross, of Mengalis Road, Dromore, is charged with murdering Michelle Bickerstaff (47) on April 21, 2012, and 50-year-old Margaret Weiss on August 31, 2007.

His Lordship Mr Justice Burgess warned the jury against researching the case.

Addressing the jury at Newry Crown Court, the trial judge said: "It is important that you, as members of the jury, decide the case solely on the evidence you hear in this court and not what you have heard or read about somewhere else.

"It is important that your independent decision is based on what you hear in this court and nothing else."

The defendant, dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and striped tie, sat in the dock flanked by two prison guards listening to proceedings through court headphones.

The judge added: "Mr Leslie Ross is charged with two counts of murder and the events are in the Dromore area of Co Down."

Mr Justice Burgess further cautioned the jury against using the internet to find out details on the case.

"There is tendency nowadays that people go hunting around on the internet looking for information and things," he said.

"That would be a total negation of the oath you have just taken.

"I don't want to terrorise you but people have got into big trouble for this in the past.

"The only evidence that you will hear is in this courtroom.

"Speculation is all it is, speculation.

"It is not evidence.

"It is also important that you don't talk to people during the course of the trial or discuss the case with each other - not until after you have heard all the evidence and I have given you my directions.

"You will then have to decide whether the prosecution has proved beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant."

Around 200 witnesses are listed to give evidence at the trial.

Telling the jury the case would last up to five weeks, Mr Justice Burgess released the members and told them to return today at Armagh Crown Court for the start of the trial.

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