Family in fear as double killer Gallagher walks free

Double killer John Gallagher is free to spend as much time as he now wishes in Lifford following his predicted release from the Central Mental Hospital.

Double killer John Gallagher is free to spend as much time as he now wishes in Lifford following his predicted release from the Central Mental Hospital.

Gallagher may visit Lifford, but certain restrictions will apply. He is allowed to visit his mother in Lifford and his father’s grave, but can’t have any contact with members of the Gillespie family or estranged members of his own family.

Security sources suggested yesterday that Gallagher would stay away from Strabane where he had been living and Lifford until “the dust settles”.

Tensions are said to be running high and a spokesman for the Gallagher family told media that the authorities would “have blood on their hands” if anything else happened following the release of the 1988 double killer.

Gallagher killed mother and daughter Annie and Anne Gillespie in the grounds of Sligo Hospital in 1988.

A month ago he walked back into the Central Mental Hospital having absconded years earlier and, as had been predicted at that time, he has been released from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

Gallagher walked free just after 4pm on Friday following a review by the Mental Health Review Board.

As part of his conditional release he is allowed to visit his mother’s home at Post Office Lane in Lifford and also his late father’s grave.

A spokesman for the Gallagher family said they believe a ”deal was done” before their brother handed himself into the Central Mental Hospital in May.

Relatives of Gallagher were told of his pending release when they were contacted by Gardai on Friday at 3pm, less than two hours before Gallagher walked free.

A spokesman for the Gallagher family said the authorities would have “blood on their hands” if anything else happens:

“We have had no say or we have not been able to put our case forward. We are living in complete fear of him and now he will be allowed to walk among us again.

“We do not think the authorities thought this through properly and we have never been consulted on the matter. If anything else happens then the authorities will have blood on their hands.”

Gallagher absconded from the Central Mental Hospital in 2000 having been found guilty but insane of the murder of the two women at his trial, held in 1989.

The Donegal native first fled to England but subsequently moved to Strabane in 2003, just across the border from his home place in Lifford. Because he had not committed a crime in Northern Ireland he could not be arrested within the UK.

He signed himself back into the Central Mental Hospital last month, where his case was reviewed as per the provisions of legislation introduced in 2006.

Right to review

Up until that time a person found “guilty but insane” of a crime could be detained indefinitely. However, under the provisions of a 2006 Act, all patients have an automatic right to a review every six months.

Once a patient is discharged, the board can impose further conditions at any time. A person on conditional discharge may also apply for unconditional discharge after 12 months.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said that the minister Alan Shatter understood that Gallagher had been granted conditional discharge but added that, because the board was independent of the Minister, Mr Shatter “has no role” in decisions made by it. “As such, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” she added.