Sunday 18 March 2018

Exclusive: Alan Hawe 'was about to experience a fall from grace', Clodagh's family believes

  • Clodagh Hawe's mother tells how killer transferred money to own account

  • 'He planned murder of my daughter and my three grandsons'

Clodagh Hawe with her sister Jacqueline Connolly and mother Mary Coll
Clodagh Hawe with her sister Jacqueline Connolly and mother Mary Coll
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The family of Clodagh Hawe believe her husband coldly planned the murder of his family and even calmly transferred money from their joint account after the killing.

Clodagh (39) and her children Liam (14), Niall (11) and Ryan (6) were brutally murdered by Alan Hawe in their home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, on August 29 last year. Hawe then took his own life.

The three brothers - Ryan, Niall and Liam - celebrate a birthday at the family home in Castlerahan, near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.
The three brothers - Ryan, Niall and Liam - celebrate a birthday at the family home in Castlerahan, near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan.

Clodagh's heartbroken mother Mary Coll has spoken for the first time about the circumstances surrounding the horrific death of her eldest daughter and three grandsons.

The Coll family believe that school vice-principal Hawe's actions were coldly planned, premeditated, and not the actions of someone who just suddenly had a breakdown.

After killing his wife with a knife and a hatchet, and then taking the lives of their sons, Alan Hawe used a computer to transfer money from the couple's joint account to his own account.

He then laid out details of all the couple's bank accounts and financial affairs to be found by whoever came into the house. He also placed all of Clodagh's jewellery neatly on the bed. Before he killed himself, he wrote a note and stuck it to the back door. "Don't come in. Call the gardaí," it said,

Clodagh's family said that the beautiful mum-of-three was clearly unaware of her husband's plan and had been innocently researching a family holiday online, according to the computer history.

They believe the walls were closing in on Hawe - that he was about to suffer a fall from grace.

The grave of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons in the graveyard beside St Mary’s Church, Castlerahan, Co Cavan. Photo: Kyran O’Brien.
The grave of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons in the graveyard beside St Mary’s Church, Castlerahan, Co Cavan. Photo: Kyran O’Brien.

The Colls said the man who was excessively "controlling" of Clodagh was seeing a counsellor and having difficulty at work when he murdered his wife, their three sons, and then took his own life.

Read more: Empty crisp bag a forlorn keepsake of happiness 

One year later, Clodagh's devastated family have decided that silence won't heal or explain the awful events in the townland of Castlerahan. They say the truth behind what happened on that dark Sunday will soon be known to all.

"He looked like the ideal husband, but he was a controlling kind of person," Mary said. "I would ask Clodagh if she would like to go shopping in Dublin she would have to run it by him first. He could be as controlling with his silence as he could be with his words."

On the Sunday, the night before their bodies were found, the Hawe family had visited Clodagh's mother Mary Coll in the town of Virginia. Arrangements were made that Clodagh would call the next morning with Niall and Ryan and drop them off around 8.30am. There was nothing out of the ordinary.

"I had planned to go picking blackberries with them on the Monday," said Mary.

Killer Alan Hawe
Killer Alan Hawe

But that morning Clodagh and the boys never arrived.

"I rang and texted both Clodagh and Alan, but there was nothing back. It was so out of character I knew there was something wrong," said Mary, seated at her kitchen table with her daughter Jacqueline.

"Coming up on 10am I decided to go over to the house about a 10-minute drive away. I had a key for the back door. I was afraid I would meet them on the road after having a car crash. All sorts of things went through my mind. I thought maybe there had been a carbon monoxide accident at the house.

"Then when I arrived and saw the curtains drawn and the cars in the driveway I knew there was something wrong. I ran from the car to the back door and I was just about to put the key in the lock when I saw the note.

"I knew something terrible had happened and I went to a neighbour's house, a neighbour I knew, and I said to her that I thought something terrible had happened. I brought her to the house and she saw the note, and we rang the gardaí. We sat out the front and around 20 minutes later two gardaí arrived, a man and a woman."

Mary went to the neighbour's house while the gardaí entered her daughter's home. "Within minutes they were back. They told us there were five bodies in the house, no survivors," said Mary through her tears.

Read more: Body of father who killed wife and sons exhumed from family grave 

Only later did it emerge how the family had died, and the level of violence used to kill them.

"Clodagh was on the couch in her pyjamas. He had stabbed her twice and used a hatchet. He must have had it in the house," said Mary.

"The three boys were in bed. Liam and Niall were in one room together, and Ryan was in a room on his own.

"Liam put up a struggle. We know that. Niall must have seen Liam being killed, and we don't know if they heard Clodagh being killed. Ryan was on his own, though. He was a sound sleeper. We don't know what he saw or heard," said Jacqueline.

Having killed his family, Alan then set about dealing with the family's affairs, knowing his next action would be to end his own life.

"There was a three-page letter in an envelope in which he outlined why he had done what he had done. We can't go into the full details at the moment and expect that to come out at the inquest in October," said Mary. "And there was another letter with bloodstains on it that he must have written afterwards. He was about to experience a fall from grace, and lose the air of respectability he felt he had in the community. He said in the letter that Clodagh didn't know anything about this, and they were happy together.

"He also wrote 'How could I pretend to be so normal for so long?'," Mary explained.

"He laid out all the folders of all their financial affairs, and neatly arranged all of Clodagh's jewellery on the bed, and one of the last acts before he died was to use the computer to transfer money from their joint account to his own account. Then he stuck the note on the back door and went back into the house and killed himself."

A year later, the Colls are still trying to understand why the man so loved by Clodagh and the boys did what he did.

"Alan Hawe never raised a hand to Clodagh or the children, ever. So for this to happen in what seems to be a very planned manner is just impossible to understand.

"If Clodagh felt she or the boys were in any danger they would've walked out. They wouldn't be there. She felt safe," said Mary. "Alan had been going to counselling, and was under pressure at work. He started the counselling for one thing, but as the work pressures came to light the counselling shifted to encompass that."

"Clodagh had confided something to me in the February, but it wasn't anything too serious, and certainly not serious enough for him to carry out his actions," she added.

Clodagh's sister Jacqueline said the family believed that he was planning all of this for some time.

"He must have known leaving here on the Sunday night what he was about to do. The financial papers, the notes, the hatchet in the house. It all points to him planning it all," said Jacqueline. "And the way he could sit down at a computer and transfer money from one account to another, and remember passcodes and passwords, after killing his wife and three sons? It's our view that he planned it all.

The family were all buried together in the grounds of Castlerahan church, but within weeks the Colls decided they did not want Alan's body in the grave with Clodagh and the boys. His coffin was exhumed from the plot last May.

Mary has never been back to the house in Castlerahan since, but Jacqueline was in it just days after the murders.

"We had to get clothes and things for the boys, and Niall's glasses, and the blood was still on the walls," she said.

Questions are now arising as to what will happen to the house, the cars, the belongings. For the families they are tangible links to their loved ones. From a cold legal perspective they are assets, the estate.

The Coll family are hoping that when 'the estate' is being looked after and the will is read that their assets could be all sold off and the money given to charity.

Read more: 'Our golden girl' - Clodagh Hawe sister's relief as killer Alan exhumed from grave 

As Alan was the last to die, the laws of succession currently mean that his family could claim all or part of the entire estate. Under the Succession Act 1965, there is existing legislation aimed at preventing those guilty of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter from inheriting their victim's estate. But there is no specific inheritance laws around murder-suicide.

"We don't see how that could be right considering it was Alan's actions that resulted in the deaths of the entire family, and we would call on the Government to change the laws of succession in cases of murder suicide," said Jacqueline.

"We don't want anything from their estate. But we feel the best use of it in the circumstances is that the entire proceeds could go to a charity like the Cavan Lighthouse, a family aid refuge set up in memory of Clodagh and the boys," she added.

The Colls say they have been helped and supported by so many people in the last year that it is impossible to thank them all.

"The school where Clodagh worked in Oristown have been brilliant, and they have dedicated a bench in her memory. Fr John O'Brien in Oristown and Fr Dermot Prior in Virginia have also been very good to us," said Jacqueline.

Mary Coll and Jacqueline Connolly are fundraising for 'Cavan Lighthouse', which they hope will provide for family aid refuge for victims of domestic violence. Donations can be made here 3169_cavan-lighthouse-.html

The loyal wife and the three beautiful children whose lives were taken


The eldest of three children, Clodagh was in her late teens when her mother and father separated.

According to Mary and Jacqueline, she was always the responsible one in the family - grounded and sensible.

"She was always helping others and thinking about others, and she would be money conscious. She was a worrier and would put others' feelings before her own," said Mary.

"I suppose she grew up before her time. There was no rebellious period or acting out, and she went from school to college and then to Alan. Everything was about the kids and for the kids.

"She didn't really have time to herself or for hobbies, but the boys were involved in lots of things, football, basketball, the choir.

"She wanted them to experience loads of things and choose what they liked," she added.


Liam was 13 when his father killed him. He was the eldest of the boys and the first grandchild on Mary's side of the family.

"He was full of energy and really coming into himself as a teenager - pushing the boundaries with his mobile phone and things," said Jacqueline.

"He was intelligent and sporty and very popular. He was also starting to notice girls," she added with a smile.

"Liam set high goals for himself and studied hard. He got a prize at school for his achievements and wanted to be the best at everything he did. He was also very affectionate," she added.


Niall was the middle boy in the family, and was 11 when he life was taken.

"He was a quiet and the most undemanding child I ever met," said Mary.

"He loved Lego, and would have a kit made in half the time you would think it would take to make it. He also loved baking with Clodagh. His speciality was brownies.

"He said he wanted to be a baker, and would watch 'The Great British Bakeoff' and all the Mary Berry programmes and ask us how we thought the contestants were doing."

He had a cat called Tickles. The cat was the only survivor the night of the murders. One of the neighbours is looking after him now.


At six, Ryan was the youngest child. Clodagh had suffered some health problems and was told she might not be able to have any more children, but Ryan arrived five years after Niall.

"He had fabulous blue eyes that would dance when he was telling you a story. And he was always up to mischief. Ryan the Rebel we called him," said Jacqueline.

"He always looked forward to his holidays and would say he would get a tan and his hair would go blond. He had an angelic voice and sang in the choir."

Irish Independent

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