Belfast Telegraph

Police building case against murder accused Leslie Ross, court told

By CHRIS KILPATRICK

Detectives are building a case "on a daily basis" against a pensioner accused of murdering two of his former girlfriends, a court has been told.

Leslie James Anderson Ross appeared in court in Newry via videolink from prison accused of the murders as well as other offences.

The 66-year-old stonemason from Dromore, Co Down, denies the offences.

Michelle Bickerstaff (47) and Margaret Weise (50) were found dead five years apart.

Ms Bickerstaff's daughter Rachel and sister Yvette were in court for yesterday's brief hearing.

Ross spoke only to confirm his name.

A prosecutor told the court the ongoing investigations were "complex and wide ranging".

She said police files on the case were being progressed "on a daily basis".

Ross's defence lawyer Conleth Downey said he was satisfied with the case being adjourned until next month.

No bail application was made and Ross will remain in custody at Maghaberry Prison.

Mother-of-four Ms Bickerstaff was found dead in April last year.

Ms Weise's body was discovered in August 2007.

The stonemason from Meganlis Park in the town is also accused of indecent assaults on dates between 1979 and 1990.

The sudden death of another woman previously in a relationship with Ross is also being investigated.

Mother-of-one Lily McKee (52), died in December 2002.

A fourth suspicious death in Dromore, that of Margaret Stronge 31 years ago, is also being probed.

The 58-year-old sustained such horrific head injuries that police at the time believed she may have been struck by a car.

Ms Stronge, who was known as Peggy, was found dead in the Moss Lane area of Dromore on July 10, 1982.

Ross was arrested in August in connection with all the offences he is accused of following a forensic breakthrough by police.

The bodies of the women have not been exhumed by investigators.

The investigation was first led by district-based detectives, supported by the specialist PSNI Serious Crime Branch officers.

It is understood two of the women died after sustaining physical injuries, with officers working to establish how they were caused.

As the investigation progressed, the Serious Crime Branch took over the lead role in the investigation.

In the wake of Ms Bickerstaff's death last year, police arrested a man.

He was later released unconditionally.

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