The Hawe family home in Barconey, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan
Apart from one previous killing in the 1980s, the phenomenon of murder-suicides by parents in Ireland/Northern Ireland appears to have started around 2000.
There have been 24 incidents of completed or attempted filicide-suicides in the island of Ireland since the turn of the century. On average, there are only seven such cases a year in the United Kingdom.
So, why is this happening?
Unfortunately, because of the way in which filicide-suicide is currently dealt with it, it is almost certain that reported accounts are less complete than in the case of other crimes.
The inquest system – which is designed to focus on the cause of death of a victim rather than the motivation of a perpetrator – does not provide an adequate method of exploring the causes of filicide-suicide.
This is exacerbated by the fact that, due to the death of the perpetrator, such crimes are rarely followed by any criminal trial.
Much of the reporting and inquest proceedings involves the paying of tribute and sympathy to victims and perpetrators.
Media sensitivity and concern for surviving family members of the deceased also results in light reporting of the background to such crimes.
Overleaf, we have compiled all available information on each incident and, despite the lack of rigour in reporting these cases, some factors are notable..
The dramatic increase in filicide-suicide appears to largely coincide with an increase in the use of anti-depresssants.
Although in many cases the medical history of the perpetrators is not fully detailed, it appears that a number of the perpetrators had either recently commenced or ceased taking such medication.
A question arises as to whether or not this may have resulted in an extreme response to stresses, which might not otherwise have occurred.
The vast majority of the perpetrators were well regarded and integrated into the local community in which they lived. Most lived in rural areas and were active members of local GAA clubs and the local Catholic Church.
Something which may need to be considered is to what extent past sexual abuse of the perpetrators may be contributing to filicide-suicide in Ireland.
As with the role of anti-depressants, this is an issue which – although referenced in at least one of the cases listed – has been largely unexplored in coverage of these killings.
Without full State reports into all cases of filicide-suicides, it is not possible to ascertain what exactly is causing these crimes and take steps to prevent them occurring in future.
Such reports, which are mandatory in the United Kingdom in all cases of murder-suicides within 12 months of someone having dealt with mental health services, would not only provide information which would be of assistance in preventing future crimes but would also help the surviving family members of the deceased in understanding why exactly such crimes occurred.
Ironically, as illustrated by at least one of the cases referenced below, without a proper consideration of such crimes, these family members may not only be left without comprehension as to how such crimes occurred but may even become a target for gossip and misstatement in their local communities.
We will correct any errors.