DUBLIN — Double killer John Gallagher, who is on the run from Dublin’s Central Hospital after failing to return from a parole outing at the weekend, may have fled the country to avoid recapture, the authorities believe.
Gallagher, who’s 34, was found guilty but insane in 1989 of shooting his former girlfriend, Ann Gillespie, 18, and her mother, Annie, 56, in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital in 1988.
Dr. Charles Smith, medical director of the Central Mental Hospital, said Gallagher was no longer suffering from any mental illness and was not a danger to the public.
An average life sentence for murder is about 12 to 14 years, commuted to 8 to 10 years at the discretion of the authorities. Gallagher has served almost 50 percent more time than the average murderer.
He has become increasingly upset about his continued detention even though he was on a liberal pre-release program, had been allowed out by himself on a regular basis, had a job outside the hospital and his own motorbike.
As he was found insane, Gallagher received no prison sentence and was detained at the discretion of the authorities until he was judged fit to be freed.
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He has made several unsuccessful legal attempts to gain his freedom. The family of his victims have objected. Since 1991, he has effectively been detained at "the pleasure of the minister for justice" and a committee was established to monitor and advise on his treatment.
Smith said the hospital authorities had been surprised by his disappearance but added, "I know that he was increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of his release program and I can only assume that that’s what prompted all of this."
For the last four years he has regarded Gallagher as no longer mentally ill or a danger to the public. But it was a "headline-grabbing case," which made it more difficult for him to be freed.
"If he had been less infamous it might have been easier to release him quietly," Smith said. "That’s a reality he resented, but it surrounded him."
Gallagher left on unaccompanied "social parole" last Saturday and did not return.
"It would be very clever of him to reverse a bad decision and just come back. It was a bad, silly move on his part and I think he should reverse it," Smith said.
Garda sources said his decision appeared to be pre-meditated. A watch is being kept on ports and airports.
"He has a motorbike and I wouldn’t be surprised if he headed straight for Northern Ireland or a ferry to England," a senior Garda source said.