A deputy headteacher killed his wife and slit his three sons' throats in their bedrooms, leaving a bloodied knife on a pillow before hanging himself, an inquest heard.
Alan Hawe, his schoolteacher wife Clodagh and their three children Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and Ryan, six, were found dead in their home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, Ireland on the morning of August 29, 2016.
He may have targeted Clodagh and Liam first for fear they would fight back, leading pathologist Michael Curtis told the inquest.
During the hearing, Garda Aisling Walsh broke down and wiped away tears as she recalled the harrowing scene at Oakdene, Barconey.
Alan Hawe, a deputy principal, his schoolteacher wife Clodagh and their three children Liam, 13, Niall, 11, and Ryan, six, were found dead in their home near Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, Ireland on the morning of Monday August 29, 2016
Clodagh Hawe is pictured with sons Niall, 11, Ryan, six, and Liam, 13, in Venice. All four were killed by Alan Hawe before he hanged himself
Mrs Hawe was found lying face down in her pyjamas and dressing gown on the sitting room sofa. She had suffered severe head and neck injuries and there was a large pool of blood under the chair, the inquest was told.
A small axe and a knife with Alan Hawe's hand print was found beside the sofa, gardai told the hearing. Mr Hawe was found hanged in the hall.
The inquest was told two of the boys, Liam and Niall, were found in their beds in the upstairs room they shared. A knife was found in the bedroom.
Ms Walsh wept as she told the inquest: 'They had no signs of life. They had their duvets on them.'
Six-year-old Ryan was found alone in his bedroom and also had a duvet over him. Another knife was found on his pillow, the inquest heard.
The coroner spoke directly to Ms Walsh as she tried to compose herself: 'Nobody can imagine what it was like that morning.'
During the inquest today, one of the country's leading pathologists said the school principal may have targeted his wife and eldest son first for fear they may try to stop him.
Amid audible shock in Cavan courthouse, Michael Curtis explained how Alan Hawe killed his family.
The deputy state pathologist was asked by coroner Mary Flanagan if his examinations offered any insight into who died first.
'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.
As he outlined in graphic detail how Mrs Hawe and her three sons died, her mother Mary Coll and sister Jacqueline Connolly sobbed and shook as they were comforted by relatives in the front row of the public gallery.
As well axe and stab wounds, Mrs Hawe had a wound and two fractured bones on her right hand, which Dr Curtis suggested could have been defensive injuries
The boys, who were found in their beds, suffered stab wounds.
Liam also had injuries to his left arm and hands while Niall had an injury to a finger on his right hand, the inquest was told.
Dr Curtis suggested these may also have been defensive.
The pathologist said there were similarities in how the three boys died, and it was difficult to conclude this was coincidental.
Garda Aisling Walsh (pictured) broke down at the inquest and wiped away tears as she recalled the scene
The hearse carrying the coffin of murdered Clodagh Hawe arrives at St Mary's Church Castlerahan, Co Caven, Ireland. An inquest has heard harrowing details of the scene after police arrived at the house
A toxicology test showed Mr Hawe had no alcohol or drugs in his system at the time of his death.
He died by suicide and was found in the hall of the house.
Clodagh's mother fought back tears as she recalled the feeling that her son-in-law was responsible.
At the inquest Mary Coll, mother of Clodagh Hawe, said she found a note on the back door of her daughter's house for gardai to be called.
She also revealed a sense of foreboding that her daughter and grandchildren had been killed by husband and father Alan Hawe.
'I was just about to put the key in the door when I saw the note,' she told the hearing. I knew it was Alan's handwriting. I knew that something terrible had happened. I just had that feeling.'
Clodagh Hawe's mother told the inquest she had driven to her daughter's home after she did not turn up on time to drop two of her sons off. When she arrived she saw two cars in the driveway and the curtains drawn.
Mary Coll, mother of Clodagh Hawe (pictured), said she found a note on the back door of her daughter's house for gardai to be called
A jury of six women and one man is hearing the inquest in Cavan courthouse.
Mrs Coll told the hearing that she did not go into the house. She rang 999 and then went to a neighbour.
The note, written on a white envelope and stuck on the inside of the back door window, read: 'Don't come in. Call the gardai.'
Mrs Coll told the inquest: 'I told them, I think Alan has done something terrible, that Alan had killed them all. I knew it was Alan's handwriting.
'I stood on the road for the guards and the rest you know.'
Earlier Mrs Coll had said everything appeared normal the evening before the murder-suicide.
She had 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.
'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 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.'
Clodagh Hawe's mother Mary Coll (left) and sister Jacqueline Connelly arrive at Cavan Court House for the inques
Hundreds of mourners attended the Hawe family's funeral at St Mary's Church Castlerahan in Co Cavan, Ireland
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 the bloodstained note on the back door and called gardai.
At the opening of the hearing, coroner Dr Mary Flanagan said: 'This is a particularly emotive inquest.'
She said it was intended to establish four limited but factual questions - who the deceased were, when and where they died, and how they died.
Dr Flanagan also said that under the law the inquest was precluded from questioning civil or criminal liability.
Gardai also told the hearing that a number of jewellery boxes were neatly piled on the centre of the bed in the master bedroom.
Downstairs, as well as the white envelope taped to the inside window of the back door, a number of other notes were found by gardai, all of which were written by Alan Hawe, the inquest was told.
There were bloodstains on some of the letters.
Mr Hawe had written a lengthy note on three white, unlined, A4 pages that were found in a sealed envelope on the kitchen table, forensic experts told the hearing.
There was also a second handwritten note, the inquest was told.
Garda John Sweetman, a forensic handwriting analyst, told the inquest that he was given samples of Mr Hawe's handwriting from a birthday card and another note to compare with the notes found in the home.
'The possibility that another writer was involved is so remote that it can be discounted,' he told the hearing.
Evidence read into the record from Rodney Lakes, of Forensic Science Ireland, revealed that blood on the envelope was matched to Mr Hawe's DNA.
His analysis of the material also found that bloodstains on one of the letters matched Mr Hawe's DNA.
There was also blood on one of the letters that Mr Lakes told the inquest provided a low-level DNA partial profile of Mrs Hawe.
Mr Hawe's jeans were also bloodstained, along with the left sleeve of his shirt.