Gardaí are examining whether or not they can take a criminal prosecution against double killer John Gallagher, who voluntarily returned to the Central Mental Hospital on May 14 after 12 years on the run.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan announced yesterday he had directed one of the country’s top detectives to examine the file on Gallagher who shot dead his ex-girlfriend, Anne Gillespie, 18, and her mother, Annie, 51, on the grounds of Sligo General Hospital in 1988.
At his trial the following year, he was found guilty but insane and sent to the Central Mental Hospital for treatment. He absconded while on day release in 2000 and lived in Britain and Northern Ireland.
Some members of the Gallagher family suspect he has returned to the CMH to be declared sane, which they believe he always was, so he can claim an inheritance from the family home in Lifford, Co Donegal.
A decision on his mental condition and consequently his release will be decided by an independent tribunal, the Mental Health Review Board within the coming months.
On Thursday, the Department of Justice said Gallagher could be prosecuted under section six of the Criminal Justice Act 1960, which makes it an offence to be unlawfully at large. The offence carries a maximum penalty of six years’ imprisonment.
A spokeswoman for the department said that it wasa matter for the gardaí and the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether or not a prosecution should be taken in this particular case.
Commissioner Callinan, however, said: “We’re revisiting the file and I’ve appointed a senior officer to have a look at that file to see what more can be done.”
He said Det Sup John McMahon of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, one of the force’s top investigators, was examining the file. “We’re exploring action that can be taken, or not, in the context of what has happened and it would be inappropriate to go beyond that at this point. We will obviously be consulting with the DPP’s office.”
It is not clear if the review is only concerned with the feasibility of taking a prosecution for absconding or whether it will examine any other option.
The commissioner declined to comment on criticism from Anne’s uncle, Pat Maguire, who escaped being killed, and also from members of the Gallagher family at not being informed the killer had returned to the CMH.
On a separate matter, the commissioner did comment on a decision by the Court of Criminal Appeal quashing another conviction as a result of a Supreme Court decision which ruled the use of a certain arrest warrant to be unconstitutional.
Three men who had been found guilty of a tiger kidnapping — that of Securicor driver Paul Richardson and his family in 2005 — will now be retried.
The commissioner said there was no criticism in any of the judgements to date of the investigators or the integrity of the investigations.
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