News

Man who fell from Newtownards flat was convicted gang rapist

NewsBy Steven Moore
Newtownards death Dessie Mee
Newtownards death Dessie Mee

A man who fell to his death in suspicious circumstances this week was a convicted gang rapist, we can reveal.

Cops investigating the death of 45-year-old Dessie Mee are looking into his extensive criminal record for potential clues as to what might have happened to him.

They include rape, aiding and abetting rape, sex with a female aged under 14, armed robbery, hijacking, assault and false imprisonment – but all committed under a previous name.

For we can reveal Mee, whose body was found outside Millers House in Newtownards on Tuesday night, used to go by another name.

Sources who knew him have confirmed he was always known as Dessie Gallagher around east Belfast where he committed many of his crimes.

But it’s understood he changed his name to Mee, the name of his half-siblings, when he moved to Newtownards so people wouldn’t discover his terrible past.

We have been told some members of his close family were surprised when they saw his picture and name in the press as they had always known him as Dessie Gallagher.

Surprisingly the PSNI has not released his previous name in any of its appeals for help about what happened.

“It’s very strange they have told the public his name was Dessie Mee because most people who knew him, knew him as Gallagher and if they wanted the public’s help you’d think they’d let them know that,” said a source.

“Dessie had a very dark past and I’m sure the police are looking into all his past crimes to see if anything comes up to help with what happened.”

Two men and a woman arrested in connection with the death were released on bail pending further inquiries.

Police said he left the flat by an upstairs window but they did not know whether or not he had been pushed.

Security sources have told the Sunday World that while the investigation will have to look at all of his past crimes they are more likely focusing on his most recent crimes and what was described as his “associations”.

In December 1989 William Desmond Gallagher was sentenced to 12 years for a raft of charges including rape.

It related to a shocking incident where Gallagher, aged 19 at the time, and two accomplices subjected a young couple and their friend to a terrifying attack after breaking into their east Belfast flat claiming to be from the UVF.

Wearing balaclavas and armed with weapons including a gun and a pool cue the men knocked the two young men unconscious before taking it in turns to rape the 19-year-old woman repeatedly.

He pleaded guilty to a series of offences as well as a number of burglaries he had committed on previous dates.

During sentencing the trial judge said: “These offences are of the utmost gravity, particularly because the defendant subjected a young woman to a horrible and degrading experience.”

Gallagher later lost an appeal against the 12-year sentence.

But Gallagher also had convictions for having sex with two girls – one aged under 17 and another aged under 14 as well as counts of assaulting police, disorderly behaviour and criminal damage.

Sources say Gallagher, despite his list of sex crimes being known by some, was allowed to live in the West Winds estate and was protected by loyalist paramilitaries.

                                                                                      Gallagher/Mee captured on CCTV shortly before his death 

And in 2003 he made legal history when he became the first person in Northern Ireland to be sentenced to life for an offence other than murder.

At that time, aged 33 and still using the name Gallagher, he was jailed for a frightening robbery at a fast food restaurant at Connswater Retail Park, east Belfast.

He was high on glue and threatened to shoot the restaurant manager in the head before getting away with £240 in cash.

Judge Anthony Hart ruled it was “essential for the protection of the public that a life sentence be imposed”.

When later questioned, Gallagher claimed “he couldn’t remember anything about the incident”.

Judge Hart said in normal circumstances a sentence of five years for such a crime would have been imposed upon a guilty plea, “were it not for the aggravating factor of the accused’s record”.

He added: “He is a very dangerous and violent man who has repeatedly reoffended whilst under a suspended sentence, whilst on licence, whilst on probation and whilst on temporary release from prison.

“His reoffending has been constant and lasted for many years until the present day. He is addicted to alcohol, illegal drugs and solvents and this addiction is plainly a major factor in his reoffending.

“I am satisfied from his unwillingness to confront this effectively that he is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, a serious danger to the public.”

The judge ruled that Gallagher should serve at least eight years before being considered for release although Gallagher later won an appeal against the life sentence and instead was ordered to serve eight years.

During that trial the court heard how Gallagher had an “extremely unstable family background” and was “raised in a household characterised by parental violence and conflict, alcohol abuse and inadequate and inconsistent parenting”. 

The appeal court was also told: “The family were known to social services on account of these problems. Despite these inauspicious circumstances, the appellant’s siblings have moved on to stable and worthwhile lives but the appellant has frequently been involved in criminal activity.”

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