Tuesday 12 December 2017

Killer John Gallagher could be free in ‘a few weeks’: Shatter

John Gallagher with then girlfriend Anne Gillespie, whom he shot dead along with her mother Annie Gillespie in 1988
Anne Gillespie with her mother Annie
Gallagher seen driving in Strabane, Co Tyrone


DOUBLE killer John Gallagher could be released within "a few weeks" according to Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Gallagher who handed himself into the Central Mental Hospital after 12 years on the run, is likely to apply to a Mental Health Review Board for release within the next few days, Mr Shatter said.

“It is possible he could be released within a few weeks, within a few months. I don’t know what decision the Heath Review Board will take in regards his current mental health, it’s not something I would be qualified to make an assessment on nor would it be appropriate, ” Mr Shatter told the Irish Times.

“He is entitled to apply, as is any other patient in the Central Mental Hospital to the independent Mental Health Review Board for release. Under that statutory provision they make that decision based on an assessment of his mental health,” Mr Shatter said.

This has been explained to the Gillespie family, Mr Shatter said, ahead of the 2012 Annual Conference of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) at Dublin Castle.

Meanwhile, a man who survived an attack by Gallagher has told how he lives in fear he will "return to finish the job".

Patrick Maguire watched in horror as his niece Anne Gillespie (18) and sister-in-law Annie Gillespie (52) were shot dead in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital in 1988.

Gallagher, who was then 22, was in a rage after being dumped by his girlfriend Anne. After killing the two women, he turned his gun on Mr Maguire, but the weapon jammed.

The double killer dramatically handed himself in to the Central Mental Hospital on Tuesday after 12 years on the run -- but he could be a free man in months.

Yesterday, a frightened Mr Maguire told the Irish Independent: "I live in fear of Gallagher every day.

"I saw what he is capable of and no one ever wants to see what that is like.

"Only for the gun jamming and me grabbing it, it would have been three deaths."

Speaking at the tyre business he runs in Ballybofey, Co Donegal, Mr Maguire said: "I am very frightened, of course I am. Who wouldn't be? I always felt he would come back to finish it."

The businessman said he was despondent and "very down" over Gallagher's decision to return this week to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, Dublin, from where he absconded in 2000.

Gallagher initially went to England but then moved to the North where he lived openly in Strabane -- just across the Border from his home town of Lifford in Co Donegal.

As he had not committed an extraditable offence, since he had absconded from a mental hospital rather than a prison and had not been found guilty of a crime, gardai could not move against him unless he returned to this jurisdiction.

Mr Maguire said: "He's up to something. That boy knows the law inside out and he'll be out soon enough again and this time he will be able to drive past me here and wave at me and there won't be a thing I'll be able to do about it.

"The system has failed as far as we are concerned and the authorities have failed. I only found out that he was back in Dundrum because one of his family members called me to tell me on Tuesday night.

"If he is going to be released, then they should release him under certain conditions and I think they can do that and those conditions must include that he cannot enter Co Donegal."


When his gun jammed, Gallagher had taunted Mr Maguire with the words 'this is your lucky day' before fleeing the scene.

He was caught by gardai but found to be insane at his trial a year later.

Gallagher, now 46, walked back into the facility in Dundrum this week, 12 years after absconding.

His estranged eldest brother Francis said he believed the double killer was planning a legal challenge so that he could move back into the family home and stake a claim to it.

"There's no doubt in my mind that this is what he is up to. He wants to move to Lifford and get his hands on the house," he claimed.

He revealed how he had installed CCTV at his home in Lifford since his brother's return to Strabane, a mile away.

"I know what he is capable of and that is why I am concerned.

"He may be in detention now and we feel okay about that, but what happens when he does get out?

"That is why we are appealing to the Minister for Justice (Alan Shatter) to look at this case. How could a minister sign off on his release?

"He has told us 'I will sort you when Lifford is sorted. Not one of you will sleep in peace'. That is why we are living in fear," he said.

A former teacher of Anne Gillespie at St Columba's College in Stranorlar told yesterday of the terrifying four days before the double killing.

Greta Harrison, now retired, said Anne had told her how Gallagher had threatened to kill the teenager three times before the attack in Sligo.

However, her statements at the time were ruled inadmissible at Gallagher's murder trial in 1989.

"She was terrified, she said to me 'If you don't do something soon you'll be singing at my funeral'." She said Anne had told her that during one vicious attack at her home in Stranorlar, Gallagher had raped her.

She added: "I feel I have to speak up now for Annie and Anne. John Gallagher was never insane."

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News