Alan Hawe had depressive symptoms for almost a decade, inquest told
Jury finds Clodagh Hawe and her three sons were ‘unlawfully killed’
Clodagh Hawe and her sons, from left, Niall, Ryan and Liam. Photograph: Jacqueline Connolly
The mother of Clodagh Hawe, Mary Coll (front), aunt Carmel (middle) and sister Jacqueline Connolly leave the inquest into the deaths of the Hawe family at Cavan Courthouse on Monday afternoon. Photograph: Lorraine Teevan
For almost a decade Alan Hawe suffered from depressive and anxiety-based symptoms, which progressed to “psychotic” symptoms by the time he murdered his wife Clodagh and their three sons, one of the Republic’s leading psychiatric experts has told an inquest hearing.
However, coroner Dr Mary Flanagan declined to disclose the contents of Alan Hawe’s suicide notes, though she gave access to the jury members.
Dr Flanagan advised the jury that in relation to Clodagh Hawe and her three sons, a verdict of unlawful killing was appropriate. She said in relation to Alan Hawe a verdict of “self inflicted death or suicide” was appropriate.
The jury returned verdicts in accordance with the coroner’s recommendation. They also recommended that steps be taken to “raise awareness of mental health issues at work”.
The inquest into the suicide of Alan Hawe and his murder of his wife Clodagh and sons Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) at their Co Cavan home in August, 2016, was also told Alan Hawe had washed his feet with bleach when he suffered from a fungal condition.
He informed his GP of this in late June, 2016, just two months before he murdered his family by stabbing and with an axe.
Prof Harry Kennedy, a consultant forensic psychiatrist and director of the Central Mental Hospital, told the Cavan Coroners Court on Tuesday that Alan Hawe’s mental issues manifested first in concerns about his physical health but developed.
“He progressed from a long-standing depressive illness with anxiety and somatic concerns to a severe depressive episode with psychotic symptoms,” he said.
Prof Kennedy explained that a somatic concern is one involving physical ailments, including the foot fungal issue he had presented to his Co Meath GP with two months before he murdered his family.
He added sufferers of the condition, he believed, like Alan Hawe often had “delusional beliefs”.
“A belief that some catastrophe, some terrible event, is pending that there is no recovery from,” he said.
The inquest had earlier heard from the Alan Hawe family GP that school teacher Alan Hawe was concerned about a conflict that had arisen with a colleague in work.
Prof Kennedy said the anxieties of a person suffering from mental deterioration like Alan Hawe may have some basis in fact.
However, they would “ruminate” and the “delusion blows them out of all possible proportion”.
Prof Kennedy noted from the documents he had reviewed Clodagh Hawe’s childhood anxieties and those related to being a mother were unremarkable and within the normal range.
The three boys showed no sign of any adjustment disorders. And there was no sign of “evidence of trauma in childhood”.
Speaking from the body of Cavan Coroner’s Court, Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll noted Prof Kennedy had not spoken to people who knew Alan Hawe and wondered if he would ever consider that.
However, the coroner Dr Flanagan said Prof Kennedy was giving evidence, and presenting his expert opinion, because she had asked him to review all documents and give his view.
Alan Hawe (40), who was found in the front hallway of the house, took his own life after murdering his wife and three sons at their home at Oakdene Downs in the townland of Barconey near Ballyjamesduff. The bodies were found on the morning of August 29th, 2016.
Prof Kennedy said somebody suffering from the condition Alan Hawe had would have a “severely impaired” state of mind leading to their acting “irrationally”.
This could occur even if the person appeared to be acting normally in their general lives.
Prof Kennedy carried out a psychiatric post mortem on Alan Hawe. He reviewed the notes generated during Alan Hawe’s 10 counselling sessions, the notes from his GP visits, his suicide letters and also applied the benefit of hindsight.
And while he said such a review, based on documentary evidence, was by definition limited he believed the signs of Alan Hawe developing stress and anxiety and later deteriorating went back to 2008.
Dr Paula McKevitt, the Hawe family GP based in Oldcastle, Co Meath, said Alan Hawe had come to her in relation to his foot problem on June 21st, 2016. However, while she advised him on that condition it also emerged he was feeling run down, anxious and was “feeling stressed and was concerned about a conflict that had arisen with a colleague”.
Dr McKevitt said he was not seeking a sick note and was intending to go to work the following day. He was looking forward to a family holiday in Italy.
He said he “would be OK if he could get through the next days”. She prescribed sleeping tablets and creams for his feet, and advised him against using bleach on his feet again.
Dr McKevitt added that Alan Hawe had only ever presented to her for physical ailments such as infections, rashes and his foot condition.
“He didn’t disclose any of his deep thoughts to me, unfortunately,” she said in her evidence.
Alan Hawe’s counsellor David McConnell said he had seen him over 10 sessions, the final one on the same day his GP was visited by him for the last time - June 21st, 2016.
Mr McConnell said nothing Alan Hawe disclosed to him during the sessions suggested he was about to harm himself or anyone else.
Pillar of the community
However, not long after he began counselling Alan Hawe the 40-year-old wept as he expressed anxiety over what people thought of him.
“He said ‘people think of me as a pillar of the community, if only they knew’. He wept as he said this,” Mr McConnell told the inquest.
However, he said the “if only they knew” appeared to him to refer to the general anxieties and “feeling down” that Alan Hawe had come to him to be treated for.
Mr McConnell said Alan Hawe’s identity as a father seemed to be strong and that his attendance at the sessions appeared to be motivated by a desire to make family life better.
Alan Hawe revealed to Mr McConnell that he had become depressed in his 20s, in the period between finishing college and stating working. But his mood lifted once he began to work. And he also told Mr McConnell he had been to marriage counselling.
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