Suicide note shows catalogue of issues troubled Hawe

Gardaí traced and interviewed woman referred to in note written following murders

 

Gardaí investigated a reference teacher Alan Hawe made in his suicide note to a long-ago sexual encounter with a teenage girl when he was the same age.

The incident was among a catalogue of issues the Co Cavan man disclosed in the lengthy letter he left at the family home near Ballyjamesduff after murdering his wife Clodagh (39) and his three sons, Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) and taking his own life.

The woman was traced and interviewed by gardaí as part of the investigation into Hawe’s quadruple murder and suicide in August 2016, but investigators found nothing incriminating or of concern about the incident or relationship.

The encounter was described in the first page of notes that Hawe left on the kitchen table at the family home.

The incident was dismissed by a source familiar with the woman’s account as two adolescents “fooling around”.

Psychotic symptoms

Complicating the investigation into events in Hawe’s background was the severe mental illness he was suffering from. Hawe (40) is said to have “catastrophised” the incident from his youth and a number of more recent experiences as a consequence of the psychotic symptoms he had developed at the time of the murders.

An inquest into the deaths concluded this week that Hawe unlawfully killed his wife with a knife and small axe before killing his three sons with a knife. His own death was recorded as suicide.

Prof Harry Kennedy, the clinical director at the Central Mental Hospital who reviewed Hawe’s suicide notes and reports from his therapist and GP, told the inquest his psychotic episodes had left his judgment “severely impaired” and that he might have believed that some catastrophe or terrible event was about to befall him.

The professor said that, in general, people suffering from a severe depressive illness “often seize on some item that’s going on in their lives, that then becomes distorted and blown out of proportion as a result of the illness”.

In a further sign of distress suffered by Hawe, he disclosed in counselling that at a low point in his relationship with his wife that he had begun to view pornography and that he had become obsessed that people would find out about it.

Computer use

Garda investigators examined his background, including his computer use history, and discovered no material or activity that would constitute criminal behaviour. They also investigated suggestions he may have been having financial difficulties or a relationship with a teenage girl but found no evidence on either front.

In his suicide notes, Hawe expressed concerns about his performance as a teacher and how students at his school perceived him and how he worked. He made an unexplained reference to how they might have thought he was not correcting the school work of students properly and that they were “probably” saying that he was on the phone.

He believed that he had fallen short in his work as a teacher at the school, that he was lazy and that people over the summer had been “looking at me oddly and not saluting me,” he wrote in his suicide notes.

He was due to return to work at the school after the summer break on the morning the bodies were found.

Hawe, who wrote the letter after murdering his family, said that he felt he had no choice but to kill his family because he believed that they could not live with the burden of his suicide so it was “easier” to murder them.

He even wrote in his suicide notes about staging his death as an accident but he feared that he would be unsuccessful and that his wife would end up looking after him “or worse knowing the truth”.

“I know they will go to heaven,” he wrote. “I know they can be happy there forever without me in their lives.”

The Co Cavan teacher’s train of thinking in his suicide notes is not uncommon in cases of murder-suicide.

Thomas Joiner, a professor of psychology at Florida State University in the United States, writes in his book The Perversion of Virtue: Understanding Murder-Suicide that the thought of victims continuing to live can be a barrier to suicide for the perpetrator and that the resolution to take one’s life “necessitates through an appeal to virtue” the death of another individual, albeit through a “perverted and horribly distorted” version of virtue.

If you are affected by any of these issues you can contact:

  • Women’s Aid helpline for free on 1800 341 900
  • Childline in 1800 66 66 66 or text “support” to 50101
  • Pieta House: 1800 247 247
  • Samaritans by telephoning 116123 for free, texting 087-2609090 or emailing jo@samaritans.org