Cavan murder-suicide: Gardaí starting from scratch to find answers

Alan Hawe, aged 40, with his sons Ryan, aged 6; Liam, aged 13; and Niall, aged 11.

What happened and why? That is the task facing the Garda investigation into the Cavan murder-suicide.

The ‘what happened’ of the crime will become clearer through technical examinations in the coming days and weeks.

But the ‘why’ could be more difficult, although the discovery yesterday of an envelope, apparently left by Alan Hawe, could well give valuable insight into why he did the unthinkable.

The what

The Technical Bureau began its examination of the Hawe house in earnest yesterday morning.

It will be a meticulous examination that will take two to three days.

The examination will establish where the bodies were found and, if different, where they were attacked.

“The bureau will tell us if there were any struggles,” said one senior source.

The technical experts will try and piece together the process of the murders, where it might have started, and how it progressed.

Some sources suspect Mr Hawe first killed his wife, who was found downstairs, then his eldest boy in his upstairs bedroom, and then the two younger boys in a second bedroom.

The suspected murder weapon or weapons will be taken away for various examinations. There may also be signs of another weapon, like a blunt instrument, if one was also used.

“These are experienced experts,” said the source. “They will be able to make an educated guess of who was killed in what order.”

Experts will also search the house for any signs of drugs and take samples out of any glasses for tests that could indicate if anything was used to sedate victims.

Alongside the work of the Technical Bureau, Michael Curtis, the deputy State pathologist, is conducting the five autopsies. He will be able to tell investigators how the victims died, the nature of the wounds, if there were any defensive marks, and indicate if they were asleep at the time.

“It could tell us the angle of the knife wounds and the position of the victims — were they lying down at the time or standing?”

Toxicology tests will be conducted on blood samples from the victims to test for the presence of any relevant substances. A rough time of death is more difficult to determine, said sources.

The why

“The big question is why?” said a garda source. “Why, and why now?”

On the day the bodies were found, garda sources told the Irish Examiner that they had nothing to go on in terms of motive. “There is absolutely nothing on the family, on the husband,” said one source. “There is no history of any sort, nothing like domestic violence or anything. We are starting from scratch.”

He said, if anything, the Hawe household seemed like an “idyllic home”, but added that there “must be something”.

That something could be contained in the note Mr Hawe apparently left behind in the house. Garda sources said the contents have not yet been seen and they are awaiting a forensic examination, after which, a “working copy” will be provided to the investigators.

While this is likely to give gardaí a “sense of direction”, the other strands of their investigation will continue.

This includes examining the domestic and marital background of the couple, their financial situations, any personal problems they were having, and any mental health issues.

They will access medical and health records, bank and financial statements and records, computer files, and their mobile phones for any texts or calls that might contain possible clues.

But much of the information will come from talking to people. “The benefit of a rural community is that everyone knows everyone,” said a garda source, “and local police know everyone and those that they don’t, they know someone who does.”

He said friends, colleagues and associates of the parents — in the locality, in the GAA community, and in teaching circles — may hold crucial information. “All rumours, suggestions and innuendo will be checked out, chased down. The same with any sightings of him. All information will be meticulously analysed to build up a picture.”

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