Belfast Telegraph

No answers as to why Alan Hawe acted with such depravity

By Nicola Anderson

On the invitation of questions by the coroner, Mary Coll sat forward in her seat and addressed the psychiatrist directly, asking: "Do you never interview families?"

Slightly flustered, Professor Harry Kennedy, consultant forensic psychiatrist reiterated his condolences to the family, and Mary Coll again asked if, when compiling his reports, he ever considered interviewing families of the people who were murdered, or the family of the murderer.

"To be fair, he is my expert," coroner Dr Mary Flanagan explained gently, having asked the psychiatrist to compile a post-mortem psychiatric report on Alan Hawe which had given the opinion that he had severe depression with psychotic episodes.

"Seeing as you never met Alan Hawe, have you ever considered speaking to the family of Clodagh in relation to how he was?" Mrs Coll said again.

"I knew him for 20 years. I didn't know him but I knew him," she said, her daughter Jacqueline holding her hand tightly as they sat in the body of Cavan courtroom on the week before Christmas.

It was a small comment, but a revealing one, in the midst of this official inquiry into the tragic deaths of an entire family, mercilessly wiped out by Alan Hawe.

In answering the requirements of the Coroner's Act quite precisely, it was also bound by the restrictions of the same Act - forcing some avenues to remain unexplored and questions unanswered. At the end, there were no real answers here, only a bald summary of what had happened, with some hints of what went on behind the scenes.

In particular, the apparent premeditation and calculated nature of the killings went completely unaddressed.

For the Coll family the process of the inquest appeared to be deeply flawed and frustratingly unsatisfactory.

"We are aware that the inquest has a limited role in law in that its function is restricted to establishing how, where and when our loved ones died," the family said in their statement.

"However, it is clear from the evidence presented that Clodagh and the boys were killed in a sequence that ensured that the eldest and most likely to provide effective resistance were killed first, and that they were executed in a manner which rendered them unable to cry out for help.

"The inquest does not address why Alan Hawe committed this savagery but his counsellor has said that he was concerned about his position as 'a pillar of the community' and we are aware that he was concerned at his imminent fall from that position and the breakdown of his marriage," they said.

"While the psychiatrist has attempted as best he could to create a retrospective diagnosis based on items and records, his GP who knew him for five years said he never displayed any signs of depression," said the statement, which was read aloud by Liam Keane, their solicitor, as Mary Coll and Jacqueline stood beside him, shivering in the chill air.

They went no further and would not elaborate on the 'fall from grace' that Hawe had expected.

However, it was obvious they disagreed with - or at least doubted - the medics on whether he suffered from a mental illness.

Despite the entire swathes of information missing from the picture of what exactly had led Hawe to act how he did, a bleak picture did emerge, piecemeal, of a man who believed that his life was tumbling down around him.

Counsellor Dave McConnell told the inquest how he had seen Hawe for 10 sessions of psychotherapy starting on March 15, 2016, in which Hawe had expressed a goal to "for family life to get back to the way it was".

On the last session, June 21, 2016, Hawe had arrived stressed, said Mr McConnell.

"He said: 'People think of me as a pillar of the community. If only they knew,' then wept," said Mr McConnell, adding that he had felt a "strong empathetic connection" with him at that moment.

"I asked what he meant and he referred back to matters discussed in therapy," he said - but told the inquest that this was more than he was required to report under the coroner's act.

He believed Hawe had a fear of being seen as 'less than perfect' and he recommended further therapy - but Hawe did not return.

In the end the only verdicts possible were ones of unlawful killing in the case of Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan Hawe, the jury forewoman's voice cracking with emotion when it came to reading the verdict for little Ryan. A verdict of suicide was delivered in the case of Alan Hawe.

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