Hawe inquest: Gasps from public gallery as details emerge
No one can imagine what it was like that morning, coroner tells upset garda
Clodagh Hawe and her sons, from left, Niall, Ryan, Liam. Photograph: Jacqueline Connolly
“The guards arrived and the rest you know,” Mary Coll wrote.
It was how she concluded her written statement to the inquest into the murders of her daughter Clodagh and her grandsons Liam, Niall and Ryan at the hand of their father Alan.
It was as if the grieving mother and grandmother had mentally blocked out what had happened in that dormer bungalow on a small Co Cavan housing estate on August 29th, 2016.
Now, on this first day of the inquest at Cavan Courthouse into the four murders by Alan Hawe — and his suicide — Coll had to relive the hours leading up to the nightmare discovery of five bodies near Ballyjamesduff.
A note had physically blocked her that morning. She obeyed the instructions of her son-in-law, handwritten on a note taped inside the back door: “Please do not come in. Please call the gardaí.”
The night before, everything seemed normal. Mary enjoyed a chat over tea and biscuits with Clodagh (40) and Alan (39) at her home in Virginia, while their three boys, Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) watched telly inside.
“Thanks for the goodies,” said Alan, on parting, to his mother-in-law about the biscuits.
The next morning, Mary, concerned that Clodagh had not dropped the two youngest off at her house as promised, called and texted the couple’s mobiles. There was no response. Pulling up outside their home, she saw the curtains closed. Something was up. She had a key and went around the back. That was when she found the note.
Coll struggled through the inquest, barely able to swear the oath as she took the witness stand. Superintendent Leo McGinn of Bailieboro Garda station read out her deposition.
Speaking in a whisper, Coll answered questions from coroner Dr Mary Flanagan before a jury of six women and one man. Hawe’s handwritten note left her suspicious.
“I knew something terrible had happened — I just had that feeling,” she said. The graphic details of what was found beyond that note were left to the local gardaí to describe.
Garda Alan Ratcliffe from Bailieboro and Garda Aisling Walsh from Virginia went in first. Inside, Ratcliffe found Clodagh face-down on a couch, dead from severe head wounds with a pool of blood around the couch, and a knife and small axe next to it.
Alan was in the hallway, dead by his own hand. Upstairs, the three boys were in their own beds with duvets over them. Liam and Niall in one room surrounded by bloodstained walls, Ryan in another with a blood-stained knife on the pillow above his head.
Walsh paused to deal with her emotions as she described finding the two eldest boys.
“I can’t imagine what it was like that morning,” said the coroner, offering soothing words after Walsh’s testimony. “No one can imagine what it was like.” In the afternoon, Mary Coll squeezed the hand of her daughter Jacqueline tightly as Deputy State pathologist Dr Michael Curtis described the fatal injuries to her daughter and grandsons. With each harrowing detail, the two wept openly, wiping tears from their reddened eyes.
The details of Hawe’s despicable crimes were horrific. Two of the boys suffered defensive injuries resisting Hawe, as did his wife.
The fatal injuries Hawe inflicted on his youngest son, six-year-old Ryan — were so violent, they drew gasps from the public gallery.
The who, the what, the where and the how were, for the most part, brutally answered on day one of this inquest.
And the rest — the why — we do not yet know.