A Donegal family are living in fear after double-killer John Gallagher was released from Ireland’s Central Mental Hospital.

Gallagher caused shock and outrage in 1988 when he killed former girlfriend Anne Gillespie and her mother Annie in the grounds of Sligo hospital.

Members of the Gillespie family still living in Donegal have asked for police protection after his sudden release on Friday.

Now 46, Gallagher was convicted of the double murder in 1989 but was found to be insane and sent to the Central Mental hospital.

He fled the facility in 2000 and, three years later, took up residence in Strabane in County Tyrone.

Because he had not committed a crime in Northern Ireland, police there were powerless to extradite him.

Gallagher recently returned to the Republic and handed himself in to police but has just been released on medical grounds.

He is now free to return to the Donegal town of Lifford and has stated he intends to visit the graves of his parents there.

The Gillespie family, who have appealed to Ireland’s justice Minister Alan Shatter for help, are now living in fear that Gallagher will kill again.

A spokesman for the Gillespie family told the Irish Sun: “We’re distraught but nobody seems to be listening to our fears.

“It was bad enough before that he managed to come across to Lifford under darkness and slip back to his home again. Now he can do it in full view of the Gardai (police) and he doesn’t have a care in the world.

“He had it cushy in hospital and now he is out. Now it’s us who have to serve a life sentence looking over our shoulders wherever we go.”

Under a court ruling,  Gallagher is not allowed to contact any relatives of the Gillespie family or his estranged family.