Family fury at ‘monster’ Leslie Ross who was cleared of killing Michelle Bickerstaff
The family of the late partner of Leslie Ross have described the man once suspected of the 47 year-old woman's murder as a "monster".
The stonemason from Dromore died last week, on the day he had been due to appear before the courts on a string of sex abuse charges.
His funeral takes place today at Roselawn Crematorium.
In January 2016 a jury was directed to acquit Ross of Michelle Bickerstaff's murder in when the prosecution offered no further evidence. Two months later he went on trial for the 2007 murder of Margaret Weiss (50).
But within weeks he was acquitted again after Mr Justice Burgess directed the jury to find him not guilty. Ross had also been charged with the murder of a third ex-girlfriend.
Ms Bickerstaff's daughter Rachel, and mother Dorothy Sparks have claimed Ross subjected her to regular beatings.
"Leslie Ross tortured my mum, both mentally and physically," Rachel told the Sunday Life.
"He beat her up, took the battery out of her phone, locked her in the house, hid her glasses, he was a monster in every way."
Dorothy (81) added: "When my daughter came to stay with me I would see fresh bruises all the time. It broke my heart, seeing her with that man."
Ross started going out with Michelle around 2008, the year after his former girlfriend Margaret Weise was found dead in suspicious circumstances. Although initially charming, the Bickerstaff family soon learned of his violent tendencies.
He plied Michelle, a champion athlete in her youth, with alcohol.
Recalling a visit to Ross's Meganlis Park home in Dromore in 2010, Rachel said: "When I went into the living room my mum was there - she looked like she was going to die. She was bright yellow, her eyes were rolling back in her head and she was going in and out of consciousness.
"While Leslie Ross was sitting on the sofa, he was trying to get her to drink whiskey. He kept putting the glass up to her mouth and saying, 'Come on Michelle, drink something'."
Describing Ross's relationship with her mother as "aggressive and controlling", Rachel added: "My mother discussed things, she discussed physical things he did to her. She said he was always hitting her and he had great strength, you wouldn't believe his strength."
Rachel also recalled how Ross attacked her, saying: "I wasn't scared of him until he hit me for the first time. I have never encountered anyone as strong as Leslie Ross. He would have grabbed me by the neck a couple of times. I didn't see him beating my mum, but he would hit her a slap or pull her hair. My mum would not describe the beatings, but you would see it on her face."
Rachel visited her mum at Ross's house in Dromore the day before she died in 2012, finding her unresponsive. She immediately called for an ambulance, and while waiting for paramedics to arrive, Ross returned home and ordered her to leave.
"He came behind me, lifted me by the hair and then put his arm around my neck and squeezed.
"It is hard to describe it other than it was a great force. I managed to break free and ran out to the kitchen and then out the back door."