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He was always a nice guy says former garda who got tip-off about the tragedy

THIS is retired garda Con Browne -- the man who alerted authorities to the Newcastle West murders.

The former policeman turned hackney driver received a phone call from a pal of the murder suspect just after noon on Tuesday.

The call would kick-start a chain of shocking events which led to the discovery of the bodies of Sarah Hines, her son and daughter Reece and Amy, and pal Alicia.

Mr Browne -- who retired at the rank of sergeant -- told the Herald of receiving the call, and described the chief murder suspect as "a fine, friendly person".

Mr Browne, who retired from An Garda Siochana nine years ago, now runs a hackney service in Dromcollogher and came to know the 31-year-old suspect through his work.

Mr Browne revealed: "I know (the suspect) well. I always regarded him as a fine, friendly individual. He was always very pleasant, and as a hackney driver I often brought him places.

"I've known him for quite some time and I also got to know his partner Sarah who was a very pleasant girl, and her child.

"I didn't know her well but she seemed to be a lovely girl."

Mr Browne explained how he was first alerted to a possible tragedy in the area shortly after midday on Tuesday.

He received a call from an individual who had been in phone contact with the suspect and was advised that gardai should be sent to check the home of Sarah Hines.

At the time, the suspect was drinking in the Clare seaside village of Kilkee.

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Browne explained: "I got a call shortly after midday from an individual who said there were concerns raised about the well-being of (the suspect's) partner and two children. I was told there were very serious concerns about them.

"I was told that the family were living in Newcastle West and that there should be a check on them."

He added: "I rang gardai in Newcastle West and alerted them to the fact that a serious incident might have occurred.

"We didn't have an exact address so I believe it took some time to locate the house."