DOUBLE killer John Gallagher has been jailed for three months for harassing his sister. The Co Donegal man, pictured, was released on bail last night pending an appeal of his conviction in a court in the North.
He was later found guilty but insane and was sent to the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin. Gallagher absconded in 2000 and moved to Strabane, Co Tyrone, where yesterday's case was heard.
The taxi driver, of Grangewood, Strabane, denied harassing his sister Helena Miller between December 31 last year and March 26 this year.
The court had heard that the relationship between Gallagher and his sister had broken down following the death of their father, who had not left a will, five years ago.
The family had split into two camps as a result of the dispute, with the defendant and Mrs Miller on opposing sides.
Mrs Miller told the court that on several occasions since the beginning of last year, the defendant had been "tormenting and harassing me".
She said that the harassment – which involved him shaking his fists and making a gun-shaped gesture with his fingers – made her afraid to leave her house unless she was accompanied by her husband.
Mrs Miller told the court that she knew her brother had "killed two people before" and had shown no remorse or pity for the family of the victims. "He willingly took those lives and it didn't bother him," she added.
During the hearing, it emerged that the family was split into two camps as a result of the dispute over the father's estate, with Gallagher, his brother Christopher and their mother on one side, and Mrs Miller and the remaining siblings on the other.
Defence solicitor Oliver Roche alleged that Gallagher's mother had taken out safety orders against two of his brothers in Donegal and that Gallagher himself had been granted non-molestation orders against one of his brothers in Northern Ireland.
As a result of this ongoing dispute, the defendant had installed a CCTV camera in his van and footage taken on the day on the incident in March this year was shown in court.
After the court had heard from Mrs Miller and two PSNI officers involved in the investigation, John Gallagher then took to the witness stand.
He told the court that his siblings had "turned" on him after a family meeting held in the wake of their father's death in 2008 and that he was now the victim of an ongoing campaign of intimidation. He alleged that his partner had been assaulted, his car had been burnt and his windscreen smashed.
Gallagher told the court that he was raising his two children in the shadow of what had happened in 1988. He added that he "apologised greatly" for what he had done and lived with it on a daily basis.
Admitting that he was "morally responsible" for the deaths of the Gillespies, he added that he was resentful that his family used it against him.
Rejecting claims that he was harassing his sister, he told the court that he wasn't going to do anything to harm his two children or "tarnish the memory" of the people who died.
Convicting the defendant on the charge of harassment, District Judge Nigel Broderick, observed that it was a "serious matter", particularly in the context of the previous incident in 1988.
He jailed Gallagher for three months, later releasing Gallagher on £500 (€590) bail pending an appeal and imposed a two-year restraining order.
By Greg Harkin