'How could he kill those poor boys? Whatever the problems, it shouldn't have come to this'
Locals huddled in groups around Ballyjamesduff, still coming to terms with the awful tragedy that has rocked their tight-knit community.
By teatime, local teens gathered at the town's garda station to watch officers return from the scene, confirming the tragedy that befell the Hawe family - three young boys had been found dead in their bedrooms, their parents lay dead downstairs.
Whatever happened behind the curtains of the family home to drive Alan Hawe to stab his wife and three sons to death may never be known.
Liam (13), Niall (11), and little Ryan, aged just six, were found upstairs at the family home at Oakdene.
Their mum Clodagh was found downstairs, not far from her husband.
"How could he kill those poor boys?" asked a local mother in tears.
"Whatever problems someone has, it shouldn't come to this, it just shouldn't."
That was a view repeated over and over again in this typical Irish country town, with its wide main streets and array of local businesses.
Alan Hawe was idolised as a teacher at Castlerahan National School where Niall and Ryan were pupils.
A local dad, whose son goes to the same school, said that he had to break the shocking news at his home.
"This has affected the entire community," he said.
"There will be tears in dozens of houses around here tonight.
"How do you explain that to kids? How do you tell them that.
"It will be the same for parents of children at Oristown School in nearby Kells where Clodagh taught.
"Kids get attached to their teachers and it is a big loss to lose a teacher and a school friend."
The sombre mood was accompanied by one of total disbelief. "It is just the worst news imaginable," said another local father.
"This hasn't sunk in yet and to be honest it will be a long time before it does.
"I just can't help thinking of the wee boys and poor Clodagh. And Alan too …they were a great family, and no-one knows why this had to happen."
In Mountnugent, ten minutes away from the scene of the tragedy where Clodagh was originally from, residents were struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
"It's just dreadful," said mechanic Gerry Smith.
All evening motorists stopping for repairs or to fill up their vehicles with diesel spoke in hushed tones about the deaths.
"Clodagh was a local girl from a great local family and her death will be felt here.
"I think the most awful thing is the loss of the three boys. It is just awful."
The community here has never gotten over the death of Tadgh, Clodagh's 26-year-old brother who died tragically six years ago this week.
"That hit everyone really hard," said another local resident.
"Clodagh would visit his grave a lot. It's hard to believe she's gone now too."
Back in Ballyjamesduff as darkness fell small groups of people gathered in the main street to remember the family.
"I went to school with Clodagh and she was lovely, just a lovely girl," said a former school friend.
"I'd see her now and again. She was devoted to her boys and she showed that same devotion at school to the children she taught."
Whatever happened at the family home, you wouldn't hear a bad word said about them.
Even for Alan, the murder suspect now deceased, there were words, good words, for him too. "He can't have been in the right state of mind at all to do that," said another local who knew him well through the basketball club.
"He was a great dad and a great husband and this is totally out of character for him. I just cannot believe this has happened to such a nice family and to a man who gave his life to bettering the lives of young people.
"It just doesn't make any sense at all."
If you have been affected by issues in this article, you can free-phone the Samaritans on 116 123