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John Gallagher tells court he was in fear for his life

Letterkenny Courthouse.

Letterkenny Courthouse.

DOUBLE killer John Gallagher told a court that he was in fear for his life when his estranged brother threw a rock through the windscreen of his van in Lifford.

Donal Gallagher (52) of 2 Hillhead Road, Urney, Strabane contested a charge of criminal damage against him at a sitting of Falcarragh Court in Letterkenny on Wednesday. It arose from an incident at Main Street, Lifford on October 27, 2012.

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Gallagher shot his ex-girlfriend, 18-year-old Anne Gillespie, and her mother Annie, 51, in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital in 1988. He was tried for murder but was found to be insane. He escaped from Dundrum Central Mental Hospital twelve years later and moved to Strabane, Co Tyrone, but returned to hand himself in in May 2012.

The court heard how there were deep divisions within the Gallagher family since the death of their father in 2008 and ongoing issues over the administration of his estate.

John Gallagher told Judge Paul Kelly that he had been travelling to Lifford that day to do some shopping for his mother when he observed his brother travelling in a silver Vauxhall Vectra car behind him. He told the court that had been subjected to a campaign of intimidation by his brother and was in fear of him so decided to change his route.

CCTV taken from a camera in John Gallagher’s van was used in evidence in the case and showed Donal Gallagher getting out of his car and picking up a rock before throwing it towards the windscreen “with brutal force”.

Under cross examination by defending solicitor Kieran Dillon in relation to the 1988 killings, John Gallagher said he believed that the matter was concluded and that he had done nothing wrong since that “unfortunate incident”.

“It’s something I’ve to live with,” he said adding that the verdict of ‘guilty but insane’ was “an acquittal under Irish law”.

In his evidence, Donal Gallagher, told the court that on the date in question, he went across road to find stick to defend himself from John as he was in fear of him but could only find a stone.  

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He said he lived in fear of his brother John and outlined an incident where his brother Francis called him to the house. On that occasion, Donal claimed that John had said to his siblings that he would make “Sligo look like a drizzle compared to what he’d to us”.

The court heard that there had been rising tension in the family since the death of the father and their late brother Francis.
The question of the administration of their late father’s will was also causing tension, the court heard.

Judge Paul Kelly said that it was clear that the unfortunate history between both brothers had given rise to this situation. He said there was tension between parties to say the very least.

He bound Donal Gallagher to the peace for twelve months on his own bond of €500. A compensation order for €521 for the repair of John Gallagher’s van window was also ordered. Leave was given to appeal.

See Friday’s Donegal News for full court report

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