DCI Ricky Harkness's team given extra 36 hours to quiz Leslie Ross over women's deaths

DCI Ricky Harkness’s team given extra 36 hours to quiz Leslie Ross over women’s deaths

DETECTIVES have been granted an extra 36 hours to question a pensioner about the suspicious deaths of three former lovers.

Serious crime branch officers went to court on Wednesday to seek an extension to the detention in custody of Leslie Ross.

The 66-year-old publican was arrested on Tuesday during a dawn swoop on his home in Dromore, Co Down.

While he was being quizzed at the serious crime suite in Antrim, graffiti was daubed on the walls of his home.

An attempt has been made to remove it and police are now investigating the incident.

The arrest of Leslie Ross followed a lengthy review of the deaths of three women who are said to have died in suspicious circumstances over an 11 year period.

Officers have been studying autopsy reports into the deaths, which include unexplained physical injuries to two of the women.

The detective heading up the probe into the deaths of three women has appealed for public help.

Chief Inspector Ricky Harkness believes someone in the village of Dromore may know something about the deaths stretching back over 11 years.

Now he wants them to come forward with the information which could solve the riddle of the women’s deaths.

The three women who died were:

* Michelle Bickerstaff, aged 47, who died in April 2012;

* 50-year-old Margaret Weise, who died in August 2007;

* and Elizabeth McKee, aged 52 who died in December 2002.

All three women lived within a short distance of each other and would have known each other.

Jenny Dixon, the daughter of Ms McKee, said her mum had been in a relationship with Leslie Ross for 11 years.

She said: “I know that police have been working hard with these cases and I am not prepared to give any details as I would not want to jeopardise their inquiry.

“We want to see justice.”

Mr Ross had been arrested previously over the death of Michelle Bickerstaff but had been released unconditionally.

It has been revealed the pensioner has also been arrested for a number of other offences in relation to other women.

Said DCI Ricky Harkness: “We are keen to speak with anyone who may have any information which could assist us and I would urge members of the community in Dromore to contact us.

“People may have been reluctant to come forward in the past but I can assure you that any information given to the police will be treated in the utmost confidence.

“Your information could provide us with the vital link to enable us to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion,” added DCI Harkness.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 0845 600 8000.

Local people and politicians said they were shocked at Tuesday’s dramatic development.

DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he knew some of the three women and their relatives.

“It is devastating news for families to know that the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones are not only suspicious but may have been outside the law.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

“There is a real sense of deep shock. People are just disbelieving that something like this could potentially have happened in their local town,” added Mr Donaldson.


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