A Co Down man who was charged with the murder of two girlfriends has died suddenly at home, it has been confirmed.
Stonemason Leslie Ross, then of Meganlis Park in Dromore, Co Down, was remanded in custody in March 2015 and was expected to be arraigned over the alleged killings of Michelle Bickerstaff in April 2012 and Margaret Weise in August 2007.
Judge Peter King told the then 67-year-old defendant there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case concerning the alleged murder of a third former partner, Elizabeth ‘Lilly’ McKee, who died in 2002.
A death notice reported that Mr Ross died “suddenly” on November 8, 2017 “at his home”.
Rachel Thompson Bickerstaff, daughter of Michelle Bickerstaff, expressed her feelings about his death on Facebook.
“Finally justice is served for my mum and many more families Leslie Ross has died,” she said. “I thought it would give me relief knowing he has met his maker but my mum’s life sadly was still taken at his hands.
“I hope he realises how much evil was inside him and faces what he has done on this earth. Finally I can start to grieve for my beautiful mummy.”
Mr Ross’ solicitor confirmed to the News Letter that his client had died. The cause of death has not been confirmed.
Reacting to Mr Ross’ death, Lagan Valley DUP MLA Paul Givan said: “In his death he has taken his secrets to the grave. Only his victims know what was done to them. Justice has been denied to them as he is unable to face the judicial process.
“From the victims’ perspective, they wanted to get to the truth and that opportunity has now been denied to them.”
The News Letter contacted three relatives of Margaret Weise and Lily McKee. They said they were aware that Mr Ross had died, but none of them wanted to make any comment.
The News Letter also attempted to contact Rachel Thompson Bickerstaff via Facebook but she had not responded at the time of publication.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said Mr Ross had been released from prison on bail in March 2016.
Court reporting restrictions mean that it is not yet possible to report how his case has proceeded since 2015.
Mr Ross’s funeral service and committal are to take place in Roselawn Crematorium in Belfast on Monday at 10.30am. The funeral director for the service is based in Newtownards.
Mother-of-four Michelle Bickerstaff, 47, was found dead in April 2012 while the body of 50-year-old Margaret Weise was discovered in August 2007.
Both women were from Ross’ home town of Dromore and had been in a relationship with him when they died. Mr Ross had consistently denied all three murder charges.
Relatives of all three women wept as the judge made his determination in 2015.