Clodagh Hawe's mother tells inquest how 'normal' evening preceded murder-suicide

Update - 6.30pm: Everything appeared normal the evening before the murder-suicide shattered the Hawe and Coll families.

Mary Coll, whose daughter Clodagh was killed with her three boys, spent an hour or so chatting with son-in-law Alan Hawe after the family dropped in for a cup of coffee on a Sunday evening.

There was only one hint of unhappiness - it was the end of August and Hawe, principal of Castlerahan National School in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, was not looking forward to going back to school.

Earlier that day Liam, the eldest of the Hawe sons, had won a basketball match in Virginia, Co Cavan.

The family arrived at Mrs Coll's after 7pm on Sunday August 28 and the husband and wife sat in the kitchen having coffee and biscuits while the boys sat in the sitting room watching television.

"Everything seemed normal," Mrs Coll told the inquest into their deaths.

Visibly distressed at having to relive the tragedy, the grieving mother and grandmother had to take a minute to compose herself before she began to give evidence.

She told the hearing in Cavan courthouse that her daughter and family left her home at about 8.40pm.

Clodagh Hawe's mother Mary Coll arrives at Cavan Court House for the inquest into the deaths of the Hawe family last year. Picture: Press Association.

"Ryan had to have a bath," she said.

"Clodagh said she would see me in the morning when she would drop Niall and Ryan over."

Mrs Coll only gave evidence for a matter of minutes, giving the jury a glimpse into the last time anyone in the family saw her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren alive.

The picture she painted of herself was that of a doting mother and grandmother.

"When they were leaving then I hugged them, I kissed them and said goodbye," she said.

Mrs Coll said she had shown some concern for Mr Hawe, who was due at school for a meeting the following morning.

"I said good luck going back to school," she said.

"He was not looking forward to going back and he said thanks for the goodies (referring to biscuits)."

Mrs Coll said she discovered the tragedy the following morning at the Hawe home in Oakdene Downs, Barconey, near Ballyjamesduff, after her daughter failed to arrive as planned at around 8.30am.

"She said not to worry if she was a little late," her mother said.

"On Monday morning I was watching for Clodagh but she didn't arrive. It must have been after 9am."

Her daughter's lateness prompted Mrs Coll to start making phone calls and leaving messages, including on her son-in-law's phone.

"I texted Alan, 'Is everything OK? Clo has not arrived yet'," she said.

Her daughter's mobile phone was going to answerphone, the inquest heard.

"It was not like my Clodagh not to contact me," she said.

Some time after 9am Mrs Coll drove to her daughter's house and saw both cars in the drive.

Alongside the signs of a normal family home, the curtains in the front rooms were still closed.

Mrs Coll then told how she found a bloodstained note on the back door as she went to use a key she carried.

She followed the instructions and called gardaí.

Mrs Coll left the jury with the image of her standing on the road waiting for officers to arrive, being comforted by neighbours, with a feeling that "something terrible" had happened.

"The rest you know," she said.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.

Update - 3.25pm: The inquest into the death of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons has heard some of them had defensive injuries on their bodies.

Clodagh and her three sons were killed by their father Alan last year before he took his own life.

The Deputy State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis said Clodagh, 13-year-old Liam and 11-year-old Niall had possible defensive injuries on their bodies.

Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis leaving Cavan Court House today.

He said Alan Hawe took his own life, he had no alcohol or drugs in his system.

Dr Michael Curtis said it was impossible to say for certain in which order the family died.

"It's impossible to say with certainty," he said.

"The impression I get is that, essentially, working on the basis that dispatching Clodagh and the older boy first, he would have rendered the possibility of a physical challenge less likely."

The deaths would have been rapid, Dr Curtis said.

12.08pm: Inquest begins into death of Clodagh Hawe and family

The inquests are underway into the death of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons who were found dead at their home outside Ballyjamesduff in Cavan in August 2016.

The mother of Clodagh Hawe said everything seemed "normal" the last time she saw her daughter and her husband.

Clodagh Hawe with her sons Niall, aged 11, Liam, aged 14, and Ryan, aged 6. Photo: Photopress Belfast

They were killed by their father Alan who then died by suicide.

First to give evidence was Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary Coll who said Clodagh, her husband Alan and their three children called to her house on the night before they were all found dead.

Mary Coll said everything was normal. They had tea and biscuits and were chatty.

13-year-old Liam had won a basketball match and was delighted and Mary Coll thanked Alan for bringing over the goodies for their tea. 

She also wished him the best as both he and Clodagh were returning to work as teachers the following day.

The inquest heard Clodagh was due to drop her two youngest sons over to her mother’s house the following morning at 8.30am.

When they did not show up, Ms Coll rang and texted her and Alan to see if everything was okay.

When she did not hear back she went over the house at around 10.40am and was about to enter when she saw a note pinned to the back door which read: "Please don’t come in. Please call the gardaí."

Clodagh Hawe's mother Mary Coll arrives at Cavan Court House for the inquest into the deaths of the Hawe family last year. Picture: Press Association

Mary Coll said she knew it was Alan’s handwriting and went to the next door neighbour and said: "I think Alan has done something terrible and killed them all."

The inquest heard Gardai later arrived and found five bodies inside. 

A hatchet and two knives were found inside the home. 

A sealed three-page letter and a loose A4 page, written by Alan Hawe, were on the kitchen table.


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