Serving of Gallagher summons defective

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

AN ATTEMPT to prosecute double killer John Gallagher for absconding from custody failed yesterday when the judge ruled that the summons was incorrectly served.

Mr Gallagher (46), who shot dead his ex-girlfriend Anne Gillespie (18) and her mother Annie (51) in the grounds of Sligo Hospital in 1988, was released from the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum in Dublin on June 29th, six weeks after giving himself up.

He was found guilty but insane at his trial in 1989 and had absconded while on day release in 2000 after spending 12 years at the facility.

His release in June came with a number of conditions but he has been allowed to visit his mother at her home at Post Office Lane, in Lifford in Co Donegal.

A summons for absconding from custody had been issued after he originally left the Central Mental Hospital in 2000. In July this year, the Director of Public Prosecutions authorised another one by which time he had been released from the facility. He is now living with his wife and children in the North, in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

The offence of absconding from custody carries a possible six-month prison sentence.

At Dublin District Court yesterday, Judge Catherine Murphy ruled that the serving of the summons at a wrong address rendered it defective. After considering legal arguments raised by defence solicitor Dara Robinson, she struck out the prosecution against Mr Gallagher, who did not attend the proceedings.

Earlier, Garda Sgt Ivan Howlin of Dundrum station had told Judge Murphy that on July 7th he and colleague Garda Michael Lynch travelled to Lifford to serve the summons on Mr Gallagher, but he was not there.

Sgt Howlin said some of the Gallaghers still lived there and a business operated at Post Office Lane. He also thought Gallagher still had links to the family’s transport firm.

Sgt Howlin said he spoke for half an hour to Mr Gallagher’s brother, Christopher, who then made a phone call and assured Sgt Howlin that he would give the summons to John Gallagher. The summons was in an envelope which was left with Christopher.

At a hearing last week Christopher Gallagher had told the court that he did not know what the envelope contained. He had said John Gallagher regularly came over the Border to visit their mother but he had no connections with any Gallagher business operating out of Post Office Lane.

He had also told the court that when the gardaí arrived he was shocked, as it was about 10 days after his brother had been released from the Central Mental Hospital.

“I thought this was over, I was amazed when these two gentlemen arrived,” he had said. “They never told me what it was, they told me it was documentation that was important that John had to get,” he had claimed in court.

He had also said that when the gardaí arrived he phoned his brother’s house in Strabane but was told by his sister-in-law that he had gone out with their children.

Mr Robinson had argued that the summons was not correctly served in accordance with the District Court’s rules. He said the Lifford address was no longer John Gallagher’s home or place of work.

The solicitor also pointed out that John Gallagher had not used that Donegal address since the 1980s. Since then he has had two addresses, the Central Mental Hospital and his current one in the North.

Judge Murphy held yesterday that the serving of the summons was defective because Mr Gallagher’s address was listed on it as the Central Mental Hospital at a time when it was known that he was no longer there and that his residence by then “was in fact outside this jurisdiction”.