Belfast Telegraph

New probe into double murder case

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.

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