Double killer ‘had 25 years to apologise’ - estranged family say

Sue Doherty


Sue Doherty

The estranged family of double-killer John Gallagher say they “don’t believe a word of” his apology.

The estranged family of double-killer John Gallagher say they “don’t believe a word of” his apology.

The 46-year-old, who is from Lifford, shot and killed his girlfriend Annie Gillespie and her mother Anne in the grounds of Sligo Hospital in 1988, after Annie tried to break up with him.

In 1989, he was found “guilty but insane” of the double murder and detained indefinitely at the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin. He absconded from there, however, in 2000 and fled to England.

In 2003, he moved to Strabane, just across the border from his family home in Lifford.

Because he had not committed a crime in Northern Ireland, he could not be arrested.

A month ago, he returned to the Central Mental Hospital and, at 4pm last Friday, he was released on recommendation of the Medical Review Board.

In an interview with this week’s Sunday Times, Gallagher said he was “deeply sorry” for what he had done. “There’s not a day goes by in my life where I don’t regret what I did,” he added. He said his victims were “wonderful and kind people”.

Gallagher said he had told his two young children about his past. “I’ve told them I did a bad thing but I’m not a bad person. I just want to raise my children, be a good father and live in peace. The memory of what I did is a cross that I will have to bear and with God’s help I’ll be left in peace to get on with my life. To try and rear two children in the shadow of this is extremely hard and difficult.”

Love mother dearly

He said he decided to turn himself into the Central Mental Hospital because of his family. “I had spent 12 years not being able to return to my family and wanted to deal with this for my children, and my elderly mother, who I love dearly,” he explained.

His estranged family, however, told a reporter for the Irish Independent yesterday that they feared for their safety. A spokesperson warned that the authorities “would have blood on their hands” if anything else happens.

“We are living in complete fear of him and now he will be allowed to walk among us again.

“John had 25 years to issue an apology. He speaks now of moving on and of forgiveness and of protecting his children. What about our lives and what about our children?

“Since he moved to Strabane in 2003, our lives have been hell and it’s all because of him.

“We can’t sleep in our beds at night knowing that he can be outside our door at any time.

“It is easy saying these things. But we know the real John Gallagher and the different sides to him.

“We don’t believe a word of what he has said.’’

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

However he is not allowed to have any contract with members of the Gillespie family or estranged members of his own family.