Two families live in fear of double killer’s return to community

The man who cheated death when double killer John Gallagher’s gun jammed in his face says he fears he will have to come face to face with him again soon.

Patrick Maguire says he still lives in fear of Gallagher, 46, who has been detained at the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin.

Mr Maguire, who was in the car park of Sligo General Hospital when Gallagher shot dead Anne, 18, and her mother Annie Gillespie, 52, now fears the Co Donegal killer will be declared sane and come after him.

Mr Maguire lives in Ballybofey, just 15 miles from the border at Strabane where Gallagher lived for almost a decade.

“This has brought it all back to me, but to be honest it has never gone away,” said Mr Maguire.

“He’s up to something. He has clearly worked something out which means he will be back in Donegal again within weeks.

“No one in my family believes he was insane back in 1988, or that he is insane now. He’ll have no problem convincing anyone he’s sane, because he has always been.

“Our family never got justice, in our opinion. He did terrible things that day and I’m lucky to be here.”

Gallagher’s family broke their silence yesterday after learning the killer handed himself in by appointment earlier this month.

They held a family conference yesterday after reading about their brother’s detention in newspapers.

Since the death of their father in 2008, a split developed within the family.

Of the nine siblings, only one, Christopher, is friendly with their killer brother.

Gallagher’s mother, who still lives in Lifford, also speaks to her son.

Eldest brother Francis said he has always lived in fear of John because he knows what he is capable of.

He revealed he installed CCTV at his home since his brother’s return to Strabane.

“I know what he is capable of and that is why I am concerned,” he said.

“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 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.”

Neither the Gallagher nor Gillespie families have had contact with the Department of Justice.

A spokesman for the Gallagher family said that they are now trying to contact Government officials.

“We heard the rumour yesterday but we still have not received any calls from the Department of Justice, or the gardaí for that matter.

“We thought we would have heard if our brother was being detained in a mental institution after what he did.

“We are trying to contact the Department of Justice ourselves now to try and find out some more.”

Sister-in-law Sharon Gallagher said Gallagher has never shown any remorse.

“He said to us one time: ‘I have killed and I can kill again.’ We know what he is capable of and that is why we are terrified he will be released and will come back,” she said.

The family said they believe John Gallagher took legal advice before making the decision to hand himself over to the authorities.

Sharon Gallagher said it is no coincidence that he has now come forward after living for almost 10 years beside them in Strabane.

“He educated himself while he was in Dundrum and while he was in England,” she said.

“He has been preparing for this for a long time and he would have everything sectioned off and prepared.

“He sought legal advice and he knows the various legal loopholes. We have no doubt that he will try to get out as soon as he can.”

Senior counsel Paul Anthony McDermott said an independent tribunal would determine John Gallagher’s future. “If that independent body says Mr Gallagher has now being cured... and there’s no basis for detaining him any further... he walks free,” he said.

Solicitor Aine Hynes, chair of Irish Mental Health Lawyers Association, said: “The review board would review the patient and make an order for continued inpatient treatment if they saw fit, or discharge on con- ditions or unconditionally.”


Q. What has just happened?

A. John Gallagher returned voluntarily to the Central Mental Hospital earlier this month after absconding in 2000 while on day release. Gallagher was found guilty but insane following his trial in 1989 for the murder of Anne Gillespie and her mother Annie in 1988 on the grounds of Sligo Hospital. He was sent to the Central Mental Hospital.

Q. What is the law in this area?

A. The old verdict of guilty but insane was changed to not guilty by reason of insanity in the Criminal Justice (Insanity) Act of 2006. Previous verdicts, including Gallagher’s, automatically changed to the new verdict. Anyone convicted is sent to the CMH.

Q. Is there a sanction for absconding?

A. The insanity acts are silent on this issue.

Q. Can Gallagher get out again?

A. Under the 2006 act and a 2010 amendment, a patient is under the care of his or her consultant psychiatrist and the director of the CMH. Every six months, an independent judicial body, the Mental Health Review Board, has to review the detention of every patient, including, now, Gallagher. The review can happen earlier on request by the patient or the hospital director, which could happen in Gallagher’s case. The board can make a decision of continuing treatment in the hospital, conditional discharge, or unconditional discharge.

Q. How is the decision made?

A. The three-person board — comprising a senior judge, a consultant psychiatrist, and consultant psychotherapist — takes into consideration evidence regarding the mental condition of the patient by the consultant psychiatrist responsible for his or her care or treatment.

Q. What safeguards are in place?

A. The board can make an order discharging a patient subject to conditions, including out-patient treatment, supervision, or both. The board can not make such an order unless: It can facilitate the patient in complying with the conditions of the order; supervise the patient; and provide the return of the patient if there is a material breach of the order. Patients can also be discharged unconditionally. The board’s 2011 annual report said seven people were conditionally discharged. No unconditional releases were made.

Q. How easy is it to be released?

A. In 2011, the board examined the cases of 84 patients and seven were released. One of these had been detained in the CMH for more than 30 years, one for 22 years, one for 21 years, two for 13 years, and two for 11 years. Figures for the 182 reviews in 2011 show that two patients had their 13th reviews, 27 had their 12th review, 39 had their 11th review, and 28 had their 10th review.


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