DOUBLE killer John Gallagher has avoided prosecution and a possible jail term for absconding from custody after a judge found that a summons was incorrectly served.
Gallagher (46), who shot dead mother and daughter Annie (51) and 18-year-old Anne Gillespie in the grounds of Sligo Hospital in 1988, was released from the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dundrum in Dublin on June 29 last.
Six weeks earlier he had given himself up to authorities having previously absconded.
Gallagher was found guilty but insane at his trial in 1989. Anne Gillespie was Gallagher's ex-girlfiend.
Howver, her killer absconded from the CMH while on day release in 2000 after spending 12 years at the facility.
His subsequent release in June of this year came with a number of conditions but he has been allowed to visit his mother at her home at Post Office Lane, in Lifford in Co. Donegal.
A summons for absconding from custody had been issued after he originally left the CMH in 2000. In July this year, the DPP authorised another one by which time he had been released from the facility and he is now living with his wife and children in the North, in Strabane in Co. Tyrone.
The proceedings had been brought under the Criminal Justice Act 1960 with the offence for absconding from custody carrying a possible six-month prison sentence.
Today at Dublin District Court Judge Catherine Murphy ruled that the serving of the summons at a wrong address rendered it defective. After considering legal arguments raised by defence solicitor Dara Robinson, she struck out the prosecution against Gallagher who did not attend the proceedings.
Earlier, Garda Sergeant Ivan Howlin of Dundrum station, had told Judge Murphy that on July 7 last, he and colleague Garda Michael Lynch travelled to Lifford to serve the summons on Gallagher but he was not present.
Gda Sgt Howlin said some of the Gallaghers still live there and a business operates at Post Office Lane. He also thought John Gallagher still had links to the family's transport firm.
He had said he spoke to Christopher Gallagher, the accused's brother, for about half an hour. Gda Sgt Howlin had said Christopher made a phone call and assured him that he would give the summons to John Gallagher. He said the summons was in an envelope which was left with Christopher.
Christopher Gallagher had told the court that he did not know what the envelope contained. He had said John Gallagher regularly comes over the border to visit their mother but he added that he has no connections with any Gallagher business operating out Post Office Lane.
He had also told the court that when the gardai arrived he was shocked as it was about ten days after his brother had been released from the CMH. “I thought this was over, I was amazed when these two gentlemen arrived,” he had said.
“They never told me what it was, they told me it was documentation that was important that John had to get,” he had claimed in court.
He had also said that when the gardai arrived he phoned John Gallagher's house in Strabane but was told by his sister-in-law that he had gone out with their children.
Defence solicitor Dara Robinson had argued that the summons was not correctly served in accordance with the District Court's rules. He said the Lifford address is no longer John Gallagher's home or place of work.
The lawyer also pointed out that John Gallagher had not used that Donegal address since the 1980's. Since then he has had two addresses, the CMH and his current one in the North.
Today Judge Murphy held that the serving of the summons was defective because Gallagher's address was listed on it as the CMH at a time when it was known that he was no longer there and that his residence by then “was in fact outside this jurisdiction”.