Ross refused bail

A bail application for Dromore double murder accused Leslie Ross has been refused on the grounds that he may attempt to interfere with witnesses.

A bail address which is the home of the accused’s cousin in Newtownards was presented to Banbridge Magistrates Court last Thursday, but the Detective Sergeant in charge of the case said it was “completely unsuitable”.

The detective said the partner of the occupant has a substantial criminal record with 130 previous offences and the son of the occupant was also well known to police.

Leslie Ross, 66, from Dromore, is accused of murdering 47-year-old Michelle Bickerstaff who was found dead in April 2012 and Margaret Weise, 50, who died in August 2007. Ross is also charged with indecent assault, gross indecency with a child and indecently assaulting a female child.

Prosecution told Thursday’s Court that the Crown was objecting to the bail application. She said this was a wide ranging and complex investigation and it was her belief that if Ross was bailed he would commit further offences.

“His record can only be described as horrendous. He has a record for violence and dishonesty and has shown a flagrant disregard for orders previously issued by the courts. He is well known and infamous in the area. There are many strands to this investigation some allegedly dating back a number of years. It is the Crown’s fear that if released he would attempt to interfere with witnesses. He has a serious issue with alcohol.”

The Detective Sergeant said Ross was an individual with a “strong propensity for violence” and police were concerned for the safety and well being of the public.

“He is likely to interfere with witnesses - and there are a substantial amount of them we deem to be vulnerable and alcohol dependent.”

“Police had great difficulty in getting some of them to come forward. If released there is the potential for interference and intimidation.”

Defence Barrister Mr McKay addressed the court about his concerns of the lack of medical evidence in the case against his client.

“I ask that as a matter of urgency the defence are given a copy of any medical evidence to support the allegation of murder. The evidence we say is unproven from the police interview. There is no document to say these women died at his hands. I am asking the court to look at this and request that the Crown serve this on us as soon as possible.”

District Judge Mr Copeland said that “suffice to say on previous occasions, on asserted facts and some based on hearsay, the court was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to associate and connect your client with these charges and he was remanded in custody.

“As these matters progress he is entitled to have this examined more closely and your request is highly reasonable. I think the Crown should respond by the next date.”

Mr Copeland added, “Time is advancing and the defence have a reasonable expectation to get further evidence.”

Ross was remanded in custody to appear via videolink on 16 January.