Stonemason Leslie Ross facing charge of murdering third former lover Lily McKee
A stonemason charged with murdering two former girlfriends is to be prosecuted for the murder of a third ex-partner.
Pensioner Leslie Ross, from Dromore, Co Down, was told yesterday that he will face prosecution over the death of mother-of-one Lily McKee (52) from the same town in 2002.
Last year the 66-year-old was charged and remanded in custody in connection with the murders of former partners Michelle Bickerstaff (47) and Margaret Weise (50) in Dromore.
Ms Bickerstaff, a mother-of-four, was found dead in April 2012, while Ms Weise's body was discovered in August 2007.
Ms Bickerstaff died in hospital after being discovered unconscious by her daughter in the house she shared with Mr Ross.
Police then launched a probe into the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms Weise.
Ms Weise, who was registered blind and suffered from alcohol dependency and depression, had been in an on-off relationship with the accused.
Ross claimed he was wakened by the sound of a thump and found her at the bottom of stairs.
According to his account, he put her back to bed, later calling a doctor when she failed to wake up. She later died without regaining consciousness.
At the time of the two initial charges, police passed on a file on the death of Ms McKee to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for assessment.
At a court hearing in Newry yesterday the PPS revealed that a decision had been made to prosecute Ross, from Meganlis Park, Dromore, for a third murder.
A Public Prosecution Service spokeswoman said: "The PPS advised the court that a decision has been taken to prosecute Leslie Ross for three murders."
Ross's solicitor Conleth Downey said his client denied involvement in all three women's deaths.
Last year Ross was also charged with three other offences – indecent assault, gross indecency with a child and indecently assaulting a female child – all on dates between 1979 and 1990.
Prosecutors yesterday withdrew those counts "without prejudice".
It is understood they will now be pursued through separate court proceedings at a later date.
After he was charged with the first two murders, lawyers for Ross argued that fatal head injuries suffered by the women could have been caused by alcohol-related falls and not violence.
Detectives investigating the three alleged murders in Dromore are also probing the circumstances of another woman's death in the town.
Margaret Stronge (58), who was known as Peggy, was found dead in Moss Lane in July, 1982.
A spokeswoman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland yesterday said that the enquiries into the death of Ms Stronge were "ongoing".