Alan Hawe left note asking that he not be forgiven

Teacher confessed in letter before suicide to murders of wife and three sons

Co Cavan schoolteacher Alan Hawe confessed to the murders of his wife and three sons at the family home near Ballyjamesduff in August 2016 in a lengthy letter he wrote before he took his own life.

Hawe (40) acknowledged the brutal nature of his quadruple murder in a letter addressed to his parents, his two brothers and his wife’s mother and sister.

The five-page letter, running over three A4 sheets, was written, it is suspected, after Hawe killed Clodagh (39) with a knife and axe in a downstairs living room and Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) with a knife in their beds upstairs.

Hawe left further writing, at times disjointed, on a note and an envelope that contained the letter. He wrote on another envelope that he taped inside the back door of the house: “Please do not come in. Please call the gardaí.”


He then took his own life in the hallway of the home.

In the notes left on the kitchen table, Hawe apologised repeatedly for his actions but said he had no other choice. He asked that he not be forgiven.

“I am sorry for how I murdered them all but I simply had no other way,” he wrote.

The school vice-principal explained why he had carried out the murders, questioning how his sons could cope with his suicide and saying it was easier that he had killed them.

“I am sorry for my brutality but I had no other way,” he wrote.

Psychotic symptoms

Prof Harry Kennedy, clinical director of the Central Mental Hospital, told the second day of the inquest into the deaths of the family that Hawe was mentally troubled and descended into psychotic symptoms at the time of the killings.

He said that somebody who, like Hawe, was undergoing a worsening mental crisis into psychotic episodes would imagine some impending catastrophe about to befall them and from which there was no return. However, while there may be some basis in fact in the person’s worrying, their illness “blew it beyond all proportion”.

The bodies of the five were found on the morning of August 29th, 2016 by members of An Garda Síochána who were alerted by Clodagh's mother Mary Coll after she found the note on the back door.

The inquest concluded in Cavan yesterday with a finding that Hawe, a school vice-principal, had unlawfully killed his wife and then his sons. His death was officially recorded as suicide.

All three boys were stabbed or slashed in the throat, rendering them incapable of crying out. Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis speculated that Clodagh, who was killed with an axe and knife to the head and neck, and the eldest boy Liam, may have been attacked first because they posed a bigger threat of fighting back.

Cavan coroner Dr Mary Flanagan declined to disclose the contents of Hawe's notes, though she gave access to the six female and one male members of the jury.

In his notes, Hawe addressed his anxieties over his performance as a teacher at his school and how he believed his students perceived him and his work. At one point, he refers to how people had looked at him over the summer.

The inquest heard that Hawe had told his GP that he was stressed because of a conflict with a colleague at the school. He was due to return to his school after the summer break on the morning the bodies were found.

Hawe left instructions that his body be cremated and his ashes disposed of in the sea and that he not be buried as a Catholic.

He even referred to his own psychosis, questioning whether he enjoyed “all the good stuff we did”.

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Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times