Alan Hawe: ‘People think of me as a pillar of the community, if only they knew’

Alan Hawe, who killed his wife and three children at their family home in Co Cavan in 2016, was troubled, depressed, and severely mentally ill in the months before the murder-suicide, an inquest was told.

Alan Hawe: ‘People think of me as a pillar of the community, if only they knew’

Hawe, his teacher wife Clodagh, and their three children, Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and Ryan, six, were found dead in their home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, on the morning of Monday, August 29, 2016.

Mrs Hawe, 40, who was found in her pyjamas and dressing gown on the sitting room sofa, had suffered axe and stab wounds. The boys, who were found upstairs in their beds, had suffered stab wounds.

A jury recorded death by suicide for Mr Hawe and that of unlawful killing in regard to his wife and three sons.

Cavan Coroner’s Court heard from psychiatry professor Harry Kennedy, who compiled a report on the deaths for coroner Mary Flanagan.

Prof Kennedy said that he was limited in his report because he had never met Mr Hawe and he was relying on notes from Mr Hawe’s GP and counsellor and his suicide note.

Prof Kennedy said that, since 2008, Mr Hawe had suffered “somatic anxieties [worries about physical ailments] without basis in reality” that “developed into severe and pervasive preoccupations” with his physical condition.

Mr Hawe suffered “ruminations” and “scruples” and “guilty feelings blown out of all proportion that indicate a major depressive illness”.

He told the hearing that he believed that, at the time Mr Hawe carried out the murder-suicide, he had progressed from long-term depression to a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms.

“When people act in the course of severe mental illness, such as very severe psychotic mental illness, their judgment is severely impaired,” Prof Kennedy said.

Mr Hawe had told his GP, Paula McKevitt, that he had felt run down, that he had difficulty sleeping, and that he presented to her with a toenail problem which he said he treated with Domestos bleach.

Prof Kennedy said Mr Hawe told his counsellor that he was troubled, but the professor noted that there was no history of alcohol or substance misuse.

His GP said she had only ever treated him for physical ailments in the five years that Mr Hawe was registered with her. Mr Hawe also attended David McConnell, a counsellor for 10 sessions from March to June 2016.

A confidentiality contract between the two was signed and Mr Hawe was told that if any matters breached the agreement — risk of harm to himself or others — that Mr McConnell was duty-bound to inform gardaí or the appropriate third party.

Mr Hawe told Mr McConnell that he had been feeling “a little bit down in his 20s” when he was between college and working. This had been resolved once Mr Hawe started working. Mr Hawe told his counsellor he had attended his GP and that he had also attended a marriage counsellor.

Mr McConnell said his client had wanted to get his “family life back to where it was”, saying he believed Mr Hawe to be a “good father and husband who placed a very high value on his family”.

In their last session, on June 21, Mr Hawe appeared stressed but spoke “openly and emotionally”.

Mr Hawe told his counsellor: “People think of me as a pillar of the community... Of only they knew.” Mr Hawe then “wept”, at which point, Mr McConnell said, the two felt a connection. Mr McConnell said Mr Hawe had a “fear of shame and of being less than perfect”.

During the 10 sessions, there were no reasons to break confidentiality and Mr Hawe stopped seeing the counsellor after the last session of June 21, 2016.

Dr McKevitt, said Mr Hawe and his sons were all registered at her Oldcastle practice but that none had a psychiatric history, nor repeat prescriptions.

On the same afternoon of his last counselling session, Mr Hawe presented to her with a ‘toenail abnormality’, for which he was prescribed daily medication. Mr Hawe had, in the past, attended Dr McKevitt for being run-down and for mouth ulcers.

She was told by Mr Hawe that his sleep problem was down to conflict with a colleague at work and that he felt “isolated” in that regard, but that he was not looking for a sick cert from her.

She said he was in preparation for the end of the school year and looking forward to a holiday in Italy. She prescribed him 10 sleeping pills to “catch up” on his sleep, which was being interrupted by short-term insomnia.

She also advised him to avoid further conflict at work and to come back to her if there was no improvement.

She said he seemed “clear, coherent, with no agitation, focused, and was of normal behaviour”. She said there was no mention of “despair or hopelessness” in him, that the work conflict was a “great source of stress for him” and that he appeared positive towards going on holiday.

However, Dr McKevitt said she was unaware that Mr Hawe was also seeing a counsellor and saw one on that day. Prof Kennedy said Mr Hawe had developed an “odd preoccupation” with somatic, or physical ailments and that, in this regard, his GP was at a disadvantage that she did not know his counsellor thought him to be “troubled”.

He said the somatic anxieties were “unfounded” and that it could have developed into an “insidious depressive illness”.

Prof Kennedy said he had notes from the counsellor, the GP and the suicide notes and in that regard he had an “unfair advantage” in his hindsight as the GP was not aware of the counselling.

He described psychotic symptoms as having the characteristics of a “feeling of catastrophe from which there was no recovery” but that the feeling was a sort of delusion and “out of the context of reality”.

At this point, Mary Coll, Mrs Hawes’s mother, asked if the professor ever considered interviewing the families of the people who were murdered or the family of the murderer.

Prof Kennedy said he was constrained in his role in the inquest.

Mrs Coll said: ‘Did you consider interviewing them, seeing as you never met Alan Hawe, Clodagh, or his family? I knew him for 20 years. I didn’t know him... but I knew him.’

Gardaí, the coroner, the legal representatives and the jury all expressed their deepest sympathies to the Coll and Hawe families. Dr Flanagan said she offered her sympathy for the “most dreadful chain of events that occurred to this family”.

“There are no words to describe the upset that befell your family present here today,” she said.

“No words will reflect, or be of adequate sympathy or really condone with you. It is unimaginable what you have had to endure.”

She said she had not attended an inquest before where the “chairperson of the jury was almost going to cry in delivering verdicts”.

The jurors deliberated for about 10 minutes before returning verdicts as the coroner advised.

The foreman said they had one recommendation to make: “It will be to raise awareness of mental health issues within the work environment.”

Stephen and Olive Hawe statement

The parents of Alan Hawe issued the following statement after the conclusion of the inquest, through their solicitor, Michael Hannigan:

Last August we received news no family should ever have to hear. In one night we lost 3 beautiful grandchildren, a beloved daughter in law and our son Alan. Death’s dark door opened and we have struggled over the last 16 months to comprehend how this came to pass.

We have had some light shed upon that darkness with the insight gained from thorough examination of the report of Prof Harry Kennedy and his opinion that Alan suffered from severe depressive illness. It does not make the pain and loss any easier for us.

We sincerely thank the Coroner Dr Flanagan for the extraordinary work she and her staff have put into this Inquest.

We pay particular tribute to the members of an Garda Siochana under the leadership of Supt Leo McGinn and Det Insp James O’Leary. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Garda first responders Gardai Alan Ratcliffe and Aisling Walsh and the paramedics who attended the tragic scene. We thank our Garda family liaison officers Garda Lisa Stephens and Sgt Ted Hughes who have helped us through very dark days.

We wish to thank Michael Lanigan our solicitor for his work and assistance throughout the last year.

We thank all those who have taken the time in the last year to contact us with messages of support and prayer from all parts of the country, they have brought us great solace.’

Coll family statement

Clodagh Hawe’s sister Jacqueline Connelly outside Cavan Court House.
Clodagh Hawe’s sister Jacqueline Connelly outside Cavan Court House.

The Coll family solicitor, Liam Keane, read out a statement on behalf of Clodagh Hawe’s sister, Jaqueline Connolly and her mother Mary Coll.

‘On August 29, 2016, we lost our daughter and sister Clodagh and her lovely sons Liam, Niall and Ryan in the most horrific circumstances.

They were savagely and brutally killed by Alan Hawe in a premeditated and calculated manner.

We are aware that the inquest has a limited role in law in that its function is restricted to establishing how, where and when our loved ones died. However it is clear from the evidence presented that Clodagh and the boys were killed in a sequence that ensured that the eldest and most likely to provide effective resistance were killed first, and that they were executed in a manner which rendered them unable to cry out for help.

The inquest does not address why Alan Hawe committed this savagery but his counsellor has said that he was concerned about his position as ‘a pillar of the community’ and we are aware that he was concerned at his imminent fall from that position and the breakdown of his marriage.

While the psychiatrist has attempted as best he could to create a retrospective diagnosis based on items and records, his GP who knew him for five years said he never displayed any signs of depression.

We want to thank Gardai Ratcliffe and Walsh, the first Gardai at the scene, sergeant Arthur O’Connor from Ballyjamesduff, the investigating Gardai, Sergeant John Roddy, the garda family liaison officer, the other frontline responders, our family, friends and neighbours in Virginia County Cavan, Clodagh’s friends, colleagues and the community in Oristown, Co Meath, where Clodagh worked.

We are aware of all those affected by these killings, especially the friends of Liam, Niall and Ryan, and their parents.

And finally we ask the media and the public generally to respect our privacy and to allow us to grieve with dignity.’

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