Clodagh Hawe relatives ask why Alan felt need to kill his family
Transcript: Murdered woman’s mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly speak out
Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll (right), sister Jacqueline Connolly (left) and another family member outside Cavan courthouse following an inquest hearing into the deaths of the Hawe family in December 2017. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Claire Byrne: Tell me about your sister, your daughter, and the mother that she was. You know, tell us what she was like as a child.
Mary Coll: She was, you know as any mother would say, she was a beautiful child. She was always easy to manage. She was always mature for her age, never, wasn’t demanding, she always did her best at school, she was never in trouble. She was never in trouble as a teenager.
Claire: Was she quiet?
Mary: She was very quiet, she was yeah. She probably wouldn’t have been that confident in herself but as she grew older her confidence grew. She did her leaving cert when she was 17 and she started teaching then, teacher training in St Patrick’s College in Drumcondra.
Claire : So then the sister often has a different perspective, from Mammy, what was your memory of her? Did you get on well?
Jacqueline Connolly: We did get on well but we were very different. As mam said she was easier to manage I would say than myself. She was very studious and she was someone I always looked up to. You know, we were just talking about her doing her leaving cert today and she did so well, she got 515 points in her leaving cert and she always studied hard.
She was always trying to point me in the right direction and I didn’t always take the advice that she gave me. But as I said she was very sensible and you know, she would give me a lecture or two every now and again over speeding in the car or not saving money or you know, overspending, and she was always there to guide me and she was there when my son was born after my husband passed away and she was just always very supportive and I knew no matter what I could always go to her and she was just always there.
Claire: And did teaching suit her, Jacqueline, when she picked that career?
Jacqueline: Absolutely. Definitely. She was patient, very patient woman, she would never lose her patience with children or anyone else. You would really have to push Clodagh before she would really say anything.
Claire: And the boys then were the centre of her world. Isn’t that right?
Jaqueline: Well Liam was the eldest and he was just coming in to his own before he died. He’d sprout up over the summer, he’d grown in our minds about two foot taller than he was and he was just beginning to show interest in girls and he was confident and he was great at basketball, he was great at piano. He was very studious. He always wanted to be the best at everything, he was very like Clodagh in that way.
Niall was quiet, he was quieter, he was less... he wouldn’t demand anything, he’d sit and he’d build Lego and he just loved building Lego and he’d make a piece and put it on the shelf and he’d never break it again. It would be there for everybody to see. And Ryan was just… I had nicknamed him “Ryan the Rebel” and I said to Clodagh “good luck with him” because he would run rings around you. He was just full of mischief all the time and like Niall, he was big in to his Lego.
Mary: They were all different you know, they had had their own little personalities, but Ryan was just six, and he was very slight, very slight build, and he was always so affectionate. As soon as you’d arrive he would run and he was so slight you could lift him up and he’d give you a big hug and “I’m delighted to see you” you know. Niall just loved reading you know, he loved all of the David Walliams books and Horrid Henry and all those and he used to quote lines from Gangster Granny at me about Granny boiling cabbage and the smell of cabbage, and he used to laugh.
But they were all individuals and they all had their own little special ways. They were all affectionate and they were all just beautiful children. Niall he always said he would love to be a baker, he would have a bakers shop in Virginia and he loved watching the [Great] British Bake Off and Mary Berry and his speciality was brownies, he loved making brownies and they were beautiful. And if you were watching your calories and you went over and Niall had the brownies done and you didn’t have one, he would be quite upset so that day you just had to ignore the calorie count and have some brownies.
Claire: And your own son (to Jacqueline) – how did he get on with them, what was the relationship like?
Jacqueline: He was like a brother to them from day one. He got on so well with them, they looked out for him and they were always, when he went over, they were always playing with him and showering him with affection. It’s very difficult as well to listen to Gary talking about the boys you know and how he misses them.
Claire: Your relationship with Clodagh Mary, you were really close, mother and daughter but friends.
Mary: We had a special bond. She always confided in me and I confided in her. I always said we didn’t have any secrets, you know, it was just the way we were.
Claire: Clodagh was only 17 when she met Alan Hawe –how did they meet?
Mary: She started college, he started college, they were both living on campus in separate houses on the campus and on Valentine’s night he said, ”you know I will look after you” and from that day on –
Claire: They were together
Mary: They were together, she hadn’t turned 18, he was a year older.
Jacqueline: I do remember saying to Clodagh at once stage, you know, that she had changed. She used to go out socialising and she used to go out for a few drinks and he didn’t drink so she stopped drinking and changed in that perspective and it seemed you know wherever she was, he was you know .
Claire: So it was an all-consuming relationship.
Jacqueline: All consuming yes.
Claire: How long where they together before they got married?
Jacqueline: Only about two and half years.
Claire: Not long.
Jacqueline: Not long no.
Mary: Shortly after they graduated.
Claire: They got married then.
Jacqueline: They got married in the church at the college.
Claire: and the lead up to the wedding then – you were bridesmaid Jacqueline, isn’t that right?
Jacqueline: Yes, that’s right.
Claire: and Alan Hawe came with you and Clodagh to pick the dress?
Jacqueline: He did yes.
Claire: That you would wear?
Claire: What did you think of that at the time?
Jacqueline: Well I knew at the time, I was driving to meet Clodagh and I just had this feeling that he was going to be there. And I met her and he was there and I kind of tested the waters and I said “well Alan, we’ll see you later, you know when we’re finished” and he said: “Oh no, I’m coming with you”.
And I said “I can’t try on dresses in front of you” and I said “when you’re ready to do this, just together the two of us, we’ll do it together” and that was it. But I felt unease, as if it just that he was coming along and he was going to be in the background or whatever but there was a control element around it and I felt I just wasn’t comfortable with it.
Claire: and then on the day of the wedding, he walked Clodagh up the aisle. How did you feel about that Mary?
Mary: At the time, really I kind of felt a bit put out but I didn’t give it much thought because then again Clodagh was happy, you know she was happy to do it that way. They were madly in love, he held her hand and he walked her up the aisle.
Claire: so it wasn’t a big issue, at that time?
Mary: No, at that time.
Claire: How was he with the boys?
Mary: With the boys, he was never rough, abusive, never saw him slap the boys. He had this silent presence, he could stand five foot away but you would know that he was in control. He might raise his voice but the boys, as soon as he said jump, they jumped.
Claire: So he was strict without being…
Mary: He was strict, very strict.
Claire: …Oppressive, or physical, or shouty or any of those things?
Mary: No he was never..
Jacqueline: They loved him. He was never anything but a good father in their eyes you know, but there was nothing that we saw that they were ever … He never raised a hand to them until the night he killed them.
Mary : Whenever you saw one of them, you saw the five of them. They were always together. If we sat having a cup of tea he would sit until I would go and we never really got time to have a conversation together. But that’s the way it was and I knew if I told Clodagh something she would tell him so you know if you told one of them something, [you told ]both of them, because they were as one as I saw it.
Claire: And when she came to your house Mary, would he come with her?
Mary: Oh he would always. Unless she was on her way home from school and Liam used to come to me because he was in the college in Virginia, he’d come on a Wednesday to me and Clodagh would collect him then on her way home. That would be the only time that I would see her without him.
Claire: Was it the same for you – would you ever see Clodagh on her own or were they always together?
Jacqueline: Very rarely. Actually one of the last conversations I had with Clodagh, I pulled up to the house and I was delighted he wasn’t there because we actually had a lovely chat and it was the last chat I had with Clodagh a few days before everything happened.
Claire: But you wouldn’t say though that she was afraid in that marriage?
Jacqueline: No, absolutely not.
Claire: Or worried about the boys or?
Jacqueline & Mary: No.
Mary: Definitely not. Then in February 2016, Clodagh rang me one evening in February and she said “can I talk to you?” and I said “of course Clodagh. She said “I’m parked outside, I’ll go in.” So she came in and she said to me “you know” she said to me “Alan has been watching porn.” She said “He has told me this.”
Claire: And do you know why he told her?
Mary: Probably out of guilt complex. I think he used to do it and then he’d feel guilty and he felt to ease his conscience and maybe to get her permission or whatever. But I know that it was affecting their relationship.
Claire: So where did things go from there then Mary after that happened in the February?
Mary: He started going to counselling and I’d say to Clodagh – he went every Tuesday night – I’d say “is everything ok” and she’d say “It’s ok mam. If there’s anything, you know, I’ll tell you”. But I would know by Clodagh’s expression, by her body language, if she was upset or annoyed and everything seemed to go back and he would come along with her and there was no .. what am I trying to say Jacqueline, there was no bad feeling or..
Claire: He wasn’t uncomfortable or embarrassed with you?
Mary: No no. So he was going to counselling and then an issue arose in the school so his counselling sessions went from dealing with his porn addiction to his issues at school.
Claire: Which were nothing to do with looking at porn at that stage, as far as you knew, as far as he said to you at that time or said to Clodagh?
Claire: But the summer happened then, the summer holidays happened. They went away on holidays, isn’ t that right? They came back and everything was as far as you were aware, as it should be?
Jacqueline: When they returned the elephant in the room was always the conflict in the school and we didn’t mention it. We know now that in his head, he had started planning the end.
Claire: I know this is really difficult but on the 28th August, they were in your house Mary, isn’t that right?
Mary: That’s right yes.
Claire: And you were having a cup of tea together and this was all normal. Do you want to talk to me about that evening?
Mary: That evening, Liam had a basketball match in Virginia that evening so they were all going to it. They came to my house after the match for a cup of tea, probably around half past six, seven o’clock, I’m not sure of the time, but the children sat and they watched telly and they had whatever, poor little Ryan had a bag of crisps, his favourite salt and vinegar, and myself and Clodagh and Alan sat in the kitchen and we chatted normally and we coffee and tea and biscuits or whatever and he Googled stuff on the phone for me, the lotto numbers, the ploughing championship, when it was on, we talked about everything and anything.
Claire: And it was a normal conversation?
Mary: it was a normal conversation. He was due back at work the next day and he didn’t want to go back. So at twenty to nine, Clodagh looked at the clock and she said “Alan we better go home now because Ryan has to have a bath”. Ryan and Niall didn’t have school so they were coming to me and we were going to pick blackberries and we were going, Niall was going to make blackberry and apple crumble.
When they left we hugged, we said “I love you”, we always did that, and I said to Alan, I said “good luck tomorrow” and he said “Thanks Mary, thanks for the goodies” and I never saw them again.
Claire: Ok, take your time, take your time.
Mary: That was the last time I ever saw them.
Mary: I sat the next morning and I waited for Clodagh to drop the boys off and I looked out the window and I sat down and I got up and I kept thinking “what is wrong” because if Clodagh, if she was going to be five minutes late, she’d let you know. I rang her phone, there was no reply. I rang the house phone. I rang his phone.
I text Clodagh. I text him “where is Clo, she hasn’t arrived yet” and eventually, I don’t know how long had passed, I got in to the car but at that stage my stomach was sick, I knew. I drove over that road, it was the longest journey I ever drove, and it was only five mile, and I remember seeing the magpies on the road. And I said, “please God, don’t let anybody else be dead.” And I drove up to the house and I saw the curtains all drawn and the two cars and I thought there is something terrible wrong.
And then I thought maybe it’s carbon monoxide poisoning, the five of them couldn’t have slept in. So I had a key to their back door and I ran round the back and I had the key in my hand and I was just about to put it in the lock and I looked and I saw the note on the door. And it read “Don’t come in, call the gardaí.” And I knew it was his writing.
And I went out on the road and I let the phone fall and I tried to dial 999 about ten times but I couldn’t. Eventually I got through and I went to Clodagh’s neighbour and I said to her “Edie”, I said “I think Alan has done something terrible”. And she said to me “What Mary?”. I said “I don’t know but I think he’s done something terrible”.
And the two of us went round to the back door and she said to me “Mary, please don’t go in” and I said “No Edie, I’m not going to go in” because I knew, I just knew, in the pit of my stomach, I just knew that if I went in, I would never be able to live again.
And the guards came, two guards came, and they told me to go in to Edie’s house and stay with Edie and I don’t know how long I was there and eventually they came in and they just stood there. The male guards said to me “We found five bodies, there’s nobody alive.”
Jacqueline: It was actually coming in on my phone before I got to mam – “five found dead in Cavan” but no one could tell me, how they died. We know now that he killed Clodagh first, we know now from the inquest that he killed the people first that would be deemed well able to stand up to him.
The axe that he killed Clodagh with was always kept in the shed outside so we know that at some stage before the time that he killed Clodagh he had brought it in to the house. He had already moved the furniture that Clodagh would have her back to him as he walked in to the sitting room. We know that Clodagh was online looking up holidays at the time and she was having a cup of tea. He came in behind her and he hit her in the head with the axe and he stabbed her in the back and she put up her hand to defend herself and he basically nearly sawed her hand off.
He killed her like he hated her. He didn’t need to use two weapons, he killed her with such brutality, it was evil. He, from what it would seem, he then sat down and he wrote the letter because he had left the axe and the knife on the floor and he wrote the letter and he took up a new knife and he went upstairs and he, we know he put his knee on Liam’s chest and cut through his windpipe to render him silent, so Niall was sharing a room with Liam so Niall probably wouldn’t have woken up because Liam couldn’t scream out but he had defensive wounds on his hands.
He did the same to Niall and then he went to Ryan’s room. Ryan was the smallest of the three of them, he was very slight and thin for his age but during the inquest we were told that he used a sawing action on Ryan and that he just threw the duvet cover over all of them and left the knife that he used on Ryan’s pillow. That is evil.That is not depression. That is force brutality and it is control.
Jacqueline: There was no initial support, I remember the Monday myself and mam trying to contact people and there was nobody there. There was no initial person with us on the day to say, you know, this has happened and take time or anything like that. We were seeing things online, we were ringing our family liaison officer at one point to say “please tell me he didn’t kill her with an axe”.
So it was the media that was informing us more so than anybody else initially. Two weeks before the inquest we got a copy of his letter which was 16 months after it happened so from what we can see from reading the letter he had initially during the summer, he had moved the furniture, he had moved the couch from a side wall in the sitting room to have the back of it facing that Clodagh wouldn’t find him coming behind her. It had never been moved in the 12 years that they had been living there but it had been moved when they came back from holidays.
Reading the letter it would seem that he killed Clodagh first and he sat and he wrote five pages about how he felt, and how the truth was going to come out eventually and he reassured us that if it was any consolation that they were happy. And he then killed the boys and he came downstairs then and he wrote some more. And then he transferred money and he went about he went about his business while his family were dead around him and he set out folders and wrote notes.
Claire: Just when you say he transferred money, just explain what you mean by that?
Jacqueline: At about half two that morning, he transferred about two and half thousand euro from the joint account to his own account so at that point he was a criminal and then he was fraudulently transferring money. And then he obviously put the note on the back door and he laid Clodagh’s jewellery on the bed upstairs.
Claire: And he said in that note that he wanted you Mary to have the jewellery, is that right?
Mary: Yes, he gave instructions of what we were to do. The documents in the folders were very important, they were all documents relating to their bank statements, their mortgage, all the financial stuff. He said “give Mary Clodagh’s jewellery and her handbag”. He left instructions for his brother to have the car to sell, they had a new car. What else did he say Jacqueline?
Jacqueline: He told us not to mess up our lives, in particular me and his two brothers. Said any little thing at all, make sure you don’t mess it up like I have and “please don’t forgive me” was one of the lines, you know.
Claire: Did he say in that letter, why he did what he did?
Jacqueline: There were bits and pieces of information and as you know we went through and inquest and the law for the inquest is very limited so we only find out where, when, how it happened and who it happened to but we never found out the why and we were advised that that probably would never happen at the inquest.
But he has said in his own words that he was caught red-handed and we do know that he was looking at pornography on the school laptop and he never brought the school laptop home. We’ve had sight of the counselling notes and he had said he was masturbating somewhere that he shouldn’t have been, possibly at the school. So we have pieces of information but we don’t know who caught him.
We don’t know why he was ringing the INTO, whether it was for advice for a grievance. We don’t know where it happened, when it happened. We do know, in the June, he cancelled all his counselling sessions and this all happened the day before he was to return to school so it was avoidance of the consequences he was about to face.
Claire: And he spoke in the letter didn’t he, about shame? And about not wanting Clodagh and the boys to have to live with what he had done?
Mary: Yes he kind of said that it was easier for them to die than to have to live with the truth of what he was doing. Clodagh didn’t know and it would be easier for her to die than to know the truth about him.
Claire: And the frustrating torturous thing for you is that you still don’t fully know what he was talking about. Is that right?
Mary: But he did say that the counsellor knows everything, the counsellor he was attending, he knows everything. Isn’t that what he said Jacqueline?
Jacqueline: He said the counsellor knows the rest. We don’t know why, after a full investigation, we’re left with these questions. We’ve requested the files from the gardaí and they’ve declined that request from our legal representative. But we feel that an injustice has been done to Clodagh and the boys.
Clodagh was sitting on the couch looking up holidays on her laptop and the boys were innocently asleep in their beds and they should not have died the way they died. And we feel that we need the truth, we need to know why they died, out of respect for them but to be able to have some peace of mind, we need these answers.
Mary: And those four innocent people that we miss so much and dearly should still be alive, living their lives to the full. He had the illusion that they couldn’t manage their lives without him, they couldn’t live without him but that was how he perceived himself, that’s how important he thought he was. Clodagh was a professional woman, she was assertive, she had three lovely healthy children. It would have been hard but they would have survived and we would have helped them. Life wouldn’t have been the same again for them certainly but children grow up and and they live their own lives.
Claire: He said in the letter that they wouldn’t have been able or he didn’t want them to go through their lives without him if he removed himself from the picture.
Jacqueline: He said he was leading them to a life of ruin essentially and Clodagh would have to clean up his mess. We still don’t know what that mess is. He said the truth was going to come out sometime, we don’t know what that truth is.
Mary: We do know now that we didn’t at the time that he was dressing in Clodagh’s underwear. I mean Clodagh would never ever in her wildest dreams have thought of that, none of us would. We only found that out after the inquest. He said as well when I go back to school it will all blow up. What we don’t know. Was he going to face a grievance? If he was masturbating in the school well at the very least he was guilty of professional misconduct. That was at the very least.
Claire: But nothing has ever come of that and you’ve never found out what was going on in his work life.
Jacqueline & Mary: No.
Jacqueline: The next day after the funeral we went to the graves and the horror of what we’d done, the stupor in our trauma, we had buried him with them. We were initially told it would be no problem to have him moved but then we realised that the exhumation could not happen Alan Hawes’ next of kin applied for him to be moved. So we asked the Hawe family to move him.
Claire: And eventually they allowed that to happen?
Jacqueline: Eventually, yeah, they allowed it to happen.
Claire: And he was exhumed. Where you there at that day that it happened?
Jacqueline: I was there, I was there that morning. Mam didn’t want to be there but I needed to be there to see him go and there was a sense of relief but that sense of relief fades, it doesn’t stay with you, you know they’re still gone, it’s just that he was gone now.
Claire: Do you go to the grave?
Mary: I do, I go maybe once twice a week. I just sit, I just can’t believe they’re there. I don’t get any comfort, I can’t pray, I can’t talk to them, I just, it’s easier not to believe that they’re gone. You know. It’s hell. It’s the only way you can describe it.
Claire: Some of the evidence at the inquest examined his medical records, his counselling records, and some conclusions were drawn about him and his state of mind at the time. It was said at the inquest that he had depression and this had developed into psychosis or psychotic incidents and this was what led to him – this was the theory – that this was led him to do what he did. You don’t accept that, is that fair to say you don’t accept that?
Mary: That somebody can wipe out their whole family and write about it and an expert can sit in a box, look through all the literature, never meet the person and say “well he had chronic depression”. How is that?
Jacqueline: It wasn’t coincidence
Mary: It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense.
Jacqueline: He said in his letter “if it’s any consolation, we were happy”. Clodagh was happy, the boys were happy, we were happy. It’s very rare that you would hear someone suffering from depression say that they were happy. Alan Hawe was attending his GP for five years and she didn’t diagnose him with depression.
Mary: He never missed time from work, he was never sick. He had a position of responsibility. He showed no signs of depression, he was out, GAA, football, out and about.
Claire: And what do you believe?
Jacqueline: We believe he was avoiding the consequences of something he was avoiding doing at work. He rang the INTO, we don’t know why, whether it was for a grievance or whether it was for representation. We know that he had conflict with a colleague. We know that he said in his letter that the truth was going to come out and he had thought about taking his own life but he didn’t want to be left retarded or worse, Clodagh finding out the truth and we don’t know what that truth is. We have asked in the last number of weeks for the file of the investigation from the gardaí, we’ve been refused that. Nothing in this country is going to change if we just throw a blanket of the inquest, a blanket of depression, and Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan, their file is in a filing cabinet now with reference numbers and we still don’t know why.
Claire: This man was in your lives for over 20 years but you didn’t know him.
Jacqueline & Mary: No.
Mary: But we thought we knew him. Clodagh thought she knew him.
Jacqueline: You would never think in a million years that a man like that could commit such brutality and evil. The evil that he created that night. It wasn’t coincidence that he did it before the night he was about to return to school.
Claire: So when you heard at the inquest that he had depression and it had escalated in to psychosis or psychotic moments, you just don’t accept that?
Mary: We just need answers to the questions. You know, he was caught, who caught him, what was he doing, where was he doing it, why did he feel the need that he had to wipe out his whole family, what was so bad that he was doing.
Claire: Having met you now a number of times and having sat and spoken to you, I know that this is not something you want to do, particularly you Mary, I know you were uncomfortable about doing it.
Mary: Yes because Clodagh was such a private person. I felt initially am I being disloyal to Clodagh, talking about her personal life, her children, her husband, but then I think of the horror, I think of what her last minutes must have been like, how worried for her children she must have been, how defenceless she was.
She was five-foot-something, she was eight stone, he was a big strong man, and I think she didn’t stand a chance. He felt that he was judge, jury and executioner, and he just done what he felt he had to do to save his face.
Anyone affected by issues in this story can contact:
The Samaritans on Free Phone 116 126 or by text to 087-2609090
Women's Aid 1800 341 900
Childline 1800 66 66 66
Domestic Abuse services - emergency (01) 866 2015 / 087 952 5217