A notorious murderer crossed the Irish border and handed himself in to police on Tuesday – after 12 years on the run.
John Gallagher had lived an open life in County Tyrone, free from the clutches of the law in the Republic.
Now 46, he was tried for murder for the 1988 killings of his ex-girlfriend Anne Gillespie and her mother Annie in the grounds of Sligo hospital.
Gallagher was found to be insane and sent to Dundrum mental hospital to serve his life sentence.
He escaped in 2000 however and has been living on the run in Strabane in Northern Ireland ever since.
The Irish Independent reports that Gallagher is now planning to take a legal case against the state and declare himself sane again. If he succeeds he could be free within weeks.
The recent Criminal Law (Insanity) Act allows mental patients to apply to a special tribunal to be set free from the hospital on the basis they no longer need treatment.
Irish police sources indicated they would fight any such application by Gallagher after his decision to hand himself in.
One estranged relative of Gallagher told the Irish Independent: “There’s no doubt in my mind that he has thought very carefully about this.
“He’ll take a legal case and be back out again very soon, and free to walk the streets of Donegal once again.”
Because he was found innocent due to insanity at his trial, Gallagher was at large from lawful custody in the Republic.
One police source told the paper: “Technically we could not arrest him but we could detain him and return him to Dundrum mental hospital but his future after that lies with Justice Minister Alan Shatter.”
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