Belfast Telegraph

Mason quizzed over women's deaths

Police are continuing to question a stone mason about the deaths of three former girlfriends in a quiet market town in Northern Ireland.

Leslie Ross, 66, from Dromore, Co Down, remains in police custody after officers from the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) serious crime branch were granted a 36-hour extension to quiz him.

He was detained in Dromore yesterday morning in connection with the deaths of Michelle Bickerstaff, 47, last April, Margaret Weise, 50, in August 2007, and Lily McKee, 52, in December 2002, and was taken to Antrim serious crime suite.

All three women were from the area and had been involved in relationships with Mr Ross who lives alone at Meganlis Park, close to the town centre.

It is understood two of the women died after suffering physical injuries while the third death was attributed to organ failure.

Mr Ross was arrested last year in the wake of Ms Bickerstaff's death but was released unconditionally.

The latest move comes after detectives carried out a review of the three separate cases and brought in s pecialist detectives to lead the investigation.

The probe did not involve any exhumations.

The families of the three women have been informed about the arrest.

In Dromore, locals have spoken of their shock at the developments.

Reverend Stephen Lowry, a church minister who visited Ms Bickerstaff in hospital before she died and conducted her funeral service, said the police investigation was one of the biggest incidents to have happened in Dromore's recent history.

The cleric, who spent 15 years in the town before a recent move, added: "It is a friendly place with a strong community.

"A lot of people are related to each other and there are good bonds of friendship that go back generations."

Local MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the community in Dromore was still absorbing this week's developments.

He said while some locals were aware the deaths of the women were believed to be suspicious, for many the police probe had come as a shock.

"For many people it has come as a surprise to them, it's not something you would expect in a dormitory market town like Dromore," the Democratic Unionist said.

"It will take a while for people to comprehend fully what has happened here."

Meanwhile, the PSNI has also re-issued its appeal for information.

A spokesman said: "Police continue to appeal to the community in Dromore who has any information about these deaths to contact them.

"Detectives are keen to speak with anyone who may have any information which could assist and continue to urge members of the community in Dromore to contact them."

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