Psychiatrist tells inquest Alan Hawe was 'troubled' before killing wife and sons

A school vice-principal who killed his family and himself was troubled, depressed and severely mentally ill in the months before the murder-suicide, an inquest has been told.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 4:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th December 2017, 4:56 pm
Clodagh Hawe's mother Mary Coll (right) and sister Jacqueline Connelly leaving Cavan Court House following the inquest into the deaths of the Hawe family last year
Clodagh Hawe's mother Mary Coll (right) and sister Jacqueline Connelly leaving Cavan Court House following the inquest into the deaths of the Hawe family last year

Alan Hawe, his schoolteacher 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, suffered stab wounds.

Clodagh Hawe's sister Jacqueline Connelly

An inquest at Cavan courthouse was told that Mr Hawe, 39, had seen a psychotherapist and his GP in the months before the murder-suicide. He was stressed about a dispute with a colleague in school as the academic year drew to a close in June 2016, the hearing was told.

Professor Harry Kennedy, clinical director at the Central Mental Hospital, was asked by Coroner Dr Mary Flanagan to review Mr Hawe's suicide note and reports from his therapist and GP.

He said: "The counselling notes from March to June last year indicate that Alan Hawe was troubled."

Professor Kennedy 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.

The Hawe family

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

The bodies of the Hawe family were discovered after Mary Coll, Clodagh Hawe's mother, called to the Home in Oakdene Downs, Barconey, and saw an envelope on the back door warning for gardai to be called.

Mr Hawe's GP Paula McKevitt told the hearing that she last saw him in her surgery on June 21 last year.

Mr Hawe had been to see a psychotherapist David McConnell on the same day.

Clodagh Hawe's sister Jacqueline Connelly

The counsellor said the vice-principal had wept when he said to him: "'People think of me as a pillar of the community'. He paused and said 'if only they knew'."

Mr McConnell said Mr Hawe gave no indication that he would harm himself or others. Dr McKevitt said Mr Hawe attended her surgery complaining about a sore toenail.

He also told her he had washed his feet in bleach. The GP said he was a little stressed about work and had not been sleeping.

"His focus was clear and his behaviour was normal," Dr McKevitt said. "Nothing in the consultation raised any concern about his mood that day." She added: "Mr Hawe did not have any overt psychological or mental problems leading up to the events on August 29."

The Hawe family

Dr McKevitt said Mr Hawe was concerned about an issue in work. "He was concerned about a conflict that had arisen with a colleague and he reported feeling isolated as a result," she told he inquest.

Referring to his review of the suicide note and the GP's and therapist's reports Prof Kennedy said: "Hindsight is always a very unfair advantage."

The hearing continues.

Directing the jury of six women and one man, Dr Flanagan said she would not reveal the contents of Mr Hawe's suicide note.

"I don't intend to disclose the contents of the notes to the inquest," she said.

"However, I have given the contents of the note to the jury to assist them in their consideration of verdicts."

Dr Flanagan told the jury that they should consider verdicts of unlawful killing for Mrs Hawe and her three boys and suicide for Mr Hawe.

"They have been sworn in to return a verdict consistent with the evidence they have heard," Dr Flanagan said.

The coroner said it was the jury's prerogative to offer a recommendation or rider that they feel may help prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

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," the inquest was told.