There were heartbreaking scenes in a County Cavan graveyard as the bodies of five members of a local family were buried together, four killed by the father who later hung himself.

Alan Hawe a local school teacher, brutally murdered his wife Clodagh before killing his sons Liam, 15, Niall, 11, and six-year-old Ryan in their bedrooms. He then hung himself.

Alan Hawe left a chilling note, according to the Irish Star, stating that he believed his family could not have coped without him leading to speculation that he planned his own suicide then decided to take his family with him.

A source told the paper: "He wrote that he was taking the family with him because he did not think they would be able to cope without him."

The Irish Independent stated that “It's understood that Mr Hawe had a history of mental health difficulties.”

However, women’s groups are complaining bitterly about the manner in which Alan Hawe was being portrayed in the media as an unfortunate victim himself.

Margaret Martin, the director of Women’s Aid said: “It is very clear he was a murderer, that is fairly conclusive. Does committing suicide mitigate you killing other people before that act? We have to stop the denial here.”

Martin told The Guardian newspaper: “In terms of domestic violence, people have stereotypes of the victim and the perpetrator. There is a disconnect between an act like this and someone who is seen as a pillar of community, who is well liked or seen as respectable.

“But our experience dealing with women feeling under threat every day is that. It does not matter how rich, how educated or how well off they are. Abusers cut across all social classes... That is the ultimate level of control: to decide who lives or dies. It is the most extreme form of domestic abuse.”

The murders were especially brutal, with knives used to kill the three boys and possibly a hatchet to kill his wife. He later hung himself after the killing spree.

Questions continue as to how such a bloody family murder could have happened in the middle class home of the ordinary highly-respected couple and their children in a small townland near Ballyjamesduff.

On the surface all seemed well. The family had just returned from a camping vacation and were seen in a nearby town on Sunday at church. Sometime on Sunday night and Monday morning the bloody killings occurred.

Hawe was assistant principal at a local school while his wife, also a grade school teacher, though in a nearby town.

A tantalizing clue may be contained in the final text of oldest son Liam who texted a friend the cryptic statement “from evil comes good.”

Hawe left several notes, including one warning anyone approaching the house not to enter inside and call the police.

The woman who found that note, Mary Coll, Clodagh Hawe's mother, told friends she has forgiven her son-in-law.

“She is beyond heartbroken but she has forgiven him. It can’t be easy but she knows the truth of the man, the heart of the man.

“She said the man that did this to her daughter and her beautiful boys was not the Alan she knows and loves.

“This person was a stranger, a total stranger and she knows if Alan had been in his right mind he would never, ever have touched a hair on the heads of those boys or her daughter. He loved them. Everything he did, he did for them.”

Father Felim Kelly, a family friend of the deceased stated at the funeral  mass: “There is a dark side too. How so much goodness could be destroyed? How such happiness could be invaded? How? Why?

“It is not for us to seek answers or to surmise about behavior. We all are trying to cope with a tragedy beyond our understanding.”

He explained: “I would invite you to come with me as I called to see Alan and Clodagh and Liam, Niall and Ryan on a Christmas morning a couple of years ago.

“Christmas is about family, is centered on children and is about giving and receiving.

“I know I was calling to see close friends and knew the welcome, Clodagh with her scones, red jam and mug of coffee, Liam, Niall and Ryan busily like budding engineers building all kinds of Lego.

“More importantly they invited the old man and indeed showed him how to go about some intricate structures.

“Alan standing with his back to the kitchen sink totally at ease enjoying the bean an tí (his wife) and the antics of unspoiled and respectful sons.”

Police inquiries are continuing into the deaths.