'How could he kill those poor boys?' - Locals left in despair
The small community of Ballyjamesduff was last night struggling to comprehend the scale of the tragedy that has befallen the town.
The sleepy Cavan town near the Meath border, known as Ballyduff to locals, is a close-knit community. It has has attracted dozens of new families from Dublin and surrounding counties in recent years - families who have opted for a slower pace of life and somewhere to put down roots.
Alan Hawe came from Kilkenny and Clodagh Hawe was from a nearby town.
Their three children - Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (six) - grew up in Ballyjamesduff. It is their tragic deaths that will be the most difficult to comprehend with their lives coming to the most devastating end imaginable.
As the family-of-five made a final departure from their home, in a procession of five hearses, the local community was only coming to terms with what happened early yesterday.
As one man observed, it will take the town a long time to come to terms with it. "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," she said.
"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 sink in."
There were kind words for dad Alan Hawe, who is now suspect of murdering his wife and children. Locals couldn't understand how the shocking situation had come to pass.
"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.
"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," the man added.
Last night, families gathered on the streets of the town to share memories of the deceased family and to pay tribute.
A local dad, whose son goes to the same school, said his heart was broken at having to tell his child what had happened.
"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 where Clodagh taught.
"Kids get attached to their teachers and it is a big loss to lose a teacher and a school friend."
A former schoolmate of Clodagh remembered her as being a devoted mum.
"I went to school with Clodagh and she was lovely, just a lovely girl," she said.
"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."
The grief wasn't confined to Ballyjamesduff.
Clodagh was originally from Mount Nugent, a town nearby.
Residents there were also struggling to comprehend the news of the tragic death of the school teacher.
"It's just dreadful," said mechanic Gerry Smith.
All evening motorists stopping for repairs or to fill up their vehicles with fuel spoke in hushed tones about the deaths.
"Clodagh was a local girl from a great local family and her death will be felt here," said one.
"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. He took his own life 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."
The shock that rippled through the small town from early afternoon yesterday will subside with time, but what happened in the Hawe household may never be understood.
The communities and friends of those who passed away in the house will have to look to each other now as preparations get under way for the funerals of the young siblings and their parents.