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Sunday 21 January 2018

Senior detective to ‘revisit the file’ of double killer John Gallagher

THE case of a double killer who handed himself in after 12 years at large is being examined by a senior detective.

John Gallagher voluntarily returned 10 days ago to the Central Mental Hospital, where he absconded from while on day release.

He was found guilty but insane over the killing of girlfriend Anne Gillespie, 22, and her mother Annie, 51, in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital a year earlier.

The fresh probe, by Detective Superintendent John McMahon of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, is dating back to when he fled in 2000.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said: "We are revisiting the file and I have appointed a senior officer to have a look at that file to see what can be done.

"We are exploring action that can be taken, or not, in the context of what has happened. It would be inappropriate to go beyond that at this point in time. We will obviously be consulting with the DPP's office."

Mr Callinan said it was not appropriate to comment on why the victims' family were only told on Tuesday night that Gallagher was back in detention.

They believe he would not have given himself up unless he knew he would walk free.

Gallagher, 46, from Lifford in Co Donegal, killed the women when he learnt Anne planned to break off their relationship.

The then 22-year-old was tried for murder, but was found to be insane and committed to the Central Mental Hospital.

Gallagher absconded a year later while on day release and fled to England.

He returned to Ireland three years after that and set up home in Strabane, Co Tyrone, in 2003 - just across the border in Northern Ireland, where he could not be arrested by gardai.

His extradition to the Republic was never sought because, under the law, he was never convicted of a crime.

It is claimed that he is planning to take a legal case to be declared sane again so he can be released.

Under the Criminal Law Insanity Act 2006 his continued detention as a patient of the Central Mental Hospital is a matter to be determined by the criminal law Mental Health Review Board.

Meanwhile, family members claim Gallagher handed himself in to the authorities in an attempt to secure a significant inheritance.

As much as "€400,000" has been left to him by his late father, Josie, the Irish Independent has learned.

Gallagher (46) returned to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum this week, 12 years after absconding.

He was found guilty but insane in 1989 of killing girlfriend Anne Gillespie and her mother Annie in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital a year earlier.

Josie Gallagher left a substantial inheritance to John and his brother Christopher.

Builder Josie Gallagher died three years ago and the two sons -- Christopher still lives at the family home in Lifford, Co Donegal -- will inherit the house, land and money on the death of their mother, Margaret.

None of the other family members, estranged since the death of Josie Gallagher, were included in the will, they have confirmed.

However, John faced legal problems staking his claim to a fortune which is estimated to be "at least three or four hundred thousand euro."

While he remains officially insane, he would be made a ward of court and the Health Service Executive would be responsible for administering his estate.

And if he remained on the run in Strabane in Tyrone, legal sources said he could not take possession of any property in the Republic.

Family members say they believe Gallagher's decision to hand himself into the Central Mental Hospital after 12 years on the run is "totally linked" to the inheritance.

"This is what he is up to now. He kills two people and he ends up with half of the family fortune," said one family member.

"Josie Gallagher was a very wealthy man and worked in the building supplies business and did very well at it.

"Right up until his death he believed John was insane when he killed the Gillespies and he looked after him financially after he absconded.

The shambolic way that news of Gallagher's return to Dundrum was given to the Gillespie family has caused widespread anger among gardai in Co Donegal, who only learned of it from the media.

Gardai immediately made contact with members of the Gillespie family, prompting an apology from Justice Minister Alan Shatter yesterday.

"I regret they weren't informed earlier," said Mr Shatter, "they were informed by the gardai on Tuesday evening. We are doing what we can to ensure that they have available to them the maximum information possible."

Gallagher, he said, is likely to apply to the Mental Health Review Board for release within days and could be free again "within a few weeks or months."

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