Accused Ross to face third murder charge - court hears

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Dromore man Leslie Ross is viewed by prosecutors as a “serial Killer”, his solicitor said after it emerged the 66-year-old stonemason was to be charged with the murder of a third former girlfriend.

Banbridge Magistrates Court heard last week that Meganlis Park man Ross, who already stands accused in the deaths of Michelle Bickerstaff (47) on April 21, 2012 and Margaret Weise (50), on August 31, 2007, was to be charged with murdering Elizabeth ‘Lily’ McKee (52) in 2002.

Former model Ms McKee was raised at Maypole Park, Dromore. The mother of one was herself daughter to well-known local charity fundraiser, the late Mr George McKee.

Repeating concerns about the disclosure of evidence, Ross’s solicitor, Conleth Downey, asked when his client was to be charged with Ms McKee’s murder. Alert, he said, to the history of delays in the case, District Judge Mr Paul Copeland adjourned the case to April 24 for a date to be fixed for Preliminary Enquiry.

In court, Michael Chambers QC, for the prosecution, said they would be withdrawing charges against Ross of indecently assaulting a female, gross indecency with or towards a child and indecent assault on a female child, on dates between January 1, 1979 and June 16, 1990. He would now be prosecuted for those by way of indictable summons, which would form part of a separate case against him.

“The court will appreciate we are dealing with three separate murders over the course of a decade,” said Mr Chambers, who spoke of a large amount of evidence based on hearsay and bad character and evidence of Ross’s behaviour towards various people over the years. There was also medical evidence and records.

“Police have made significant in-roads into getting the medical evidence of each of the deceased,” he said. “Each made various comments to a number of medical practitioners over the years and we now need to track down these people, some now in England.”

To that end Mr Chambers asked for a further four-week remand and said it was a “fervent hope and aspiration” that preliminary enquiry papers would be ready to serve by then.

“The prosecution see my client as a serial killer,” said Mr Downey, who added that Ross, who has denied involvement in all three women’s deaths, had been questioned about the death of Lily McKee but had “never been charged”.

Mr Downey reiterated previous concerns that the PPS was not disclosing all evidence to the defence, so that they might have time to peruse it before a future PE date.

Referring to a rejected High Court bail application for Ross, he said Mr Justice Weir had “indicated at that stage that medical evidence should be made available” so the defence could in turn engage its own medical investigators.

He said the defence was still awaiting medical evidence and reports.

A “surprised” Mr Chambers, however, said the prosecution had “given the defence more than we are obliged to” by providing autopsy reports and reviews by state pathologist Dr Jack Crane.

Adjourning the case until April 24, Mr Copeland said: ““By that stage two months will have passed from Mr Justice Weir made his remarks, I expect this committal to take place before the summer recess, so that the accused can expect some development in the case.”

Ross was remanded in custody to appear by video link on April 24.