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Days after a psychologist gave Hannah Clarke's ex a 'glowing review', he started penning a 'death note'.

Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and may be triggering for some readers. 

It's been two years since Australia learnt the name Hannah Clarke and those of her three children Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey. 

The 31-year-old Brisbane mother and her children were killed when her estranged husband, Rowan Baxter, doused her car in petrol and set it alight in Camp Hill, in Brisbane’s south, on February 19, 2020. 

That morning, around 8.30am, Clarke, and Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, had just left her parents' Camp Hill home on a typical school run when Baxter climbed into the passenger seat of her car armed with a knife and can of petrol.

The children tragically died in the car fire, while Hannah suffered burns covering 97 per cent of her body and died a few hours later in hospital. Baxter died on the footpath with self-inflicted wounds.

This month, an inquest into the deaths of Clarke and her children begun in Brisbane, with the court hearing from witnesses, emergency responders, and friends of both Clarke and Baxter over two weeks. 

Women and violence: The hidden numbers. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia. 

The inquest's goal has been to determine if anything could have been done to prevent Clarke and her children from being killed and will consider any contact her and Baxter had with domestic violence services. 

"The evidence will shine a spotlight on this form of domestic violence; a form which is subtle and nuanced, even imperceptible to all but the most expert eyes, yet has devastating consequences," Dr Jacoba Brasch QC previously told the coroner.

Clarke's father, Lloyd Clarke, said outside court he hoped the inquest would provide some answers. 

"We're just hoping that we can work out where the system let Hannah and her children down," he said.

"And they can put procedures in place and move on, so people won't have to go through this terrible thing."

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As the inquest enters its final phase, here are the key findings to come out of it so far. 

Baxter abducted their child and wrote a disturbing note in his phone before the attack. 

The inquest heard Baxter previously "abducted" their daughter, Laianah, on Boxing Day 2019 and took her to northern NSW. 

Clarke first spoke to police about Baxter in early December 2019, seeming to understand afterwards that what she was experiencing was family violence, even though he hadn't hit her.

Baxter continued to see their children, but on Boxing Day he took Laianah after the family met in Bulimba. Witnesses said Baxter took his daughter to NSW for more than two days. Police intervened, returning Laianah to her mother.

Her sister, Aaliyah, was so frightened after the abduction she needed to be reassured every day that she wasn't going to her father's house, Clarke's mother Sue said.

"Even then when she did have to go she'd be on the footpath crying, not wanting to get in the car and clinging to Hannah, and he [Baxter] would grab her by the arm and fling her to the car and say 'get in the bloody car, I'm your father'", she added.

Baxter showed 29 out of 39 "lethality indicators" of domestic violence.

Counsel assisting the coroner Jacoba Brasch QC told the inquest Baxter displayed 29 out of the 39 'lethality indicators" of domestic violence before the attack. 

Dr Brasch explained there were 39 "lethality indicators" that demonstrate the threat level in domestic violence situations.

She said Clarke experienced 29 of those indicators, including suicide threats by her estranged husband, child custody or access disputes, actual pending separation, age disparity, and her intuitive sense of fear.

"I'm going to suggest to you that many of them were in plain sight," Dr Brasch said to Acting Superintendent Ben Martain of Queensland Police's Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Command

Clarke's best friend went to police days before her death. 

During the inquest, Clarke's best friend, Nicole Brooks, said that she warned Carina police station Baxter was "going to take them out" but was told they had to wait until Baxter "does something".

"I said, 'What if you don't get a second chance?''' she said.

Six days later, Baxter set the car alight.

Brooks also recalled times Baxter posted videos on social media of his kids, including one where he 'tacked' his daughter.

"He [Baxter] was abnormal. He thought the videos were so funny. He was a rugby player and to prove how rugged he was he would tackle her [his daughter] almost full force into a blow-up pool," Brooks said, according to the ABC.

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"And Aaliyah would be crying at the end of the video."

Another time, three-year-old Trey's "eyes were bulging in fear" after he was placed in an ice bath. 

"Rowan held him and didn't just dip his toes, he held him right up to his neck and Trey was frantic. His eyes were bulging in fear,'' Brooks said.

"He thought that was funny enough to post."

Clarke "would have fought anyone" for her kids.

Hannah Clarke’s mother told the inquest her daughter was always "walking on eggshells" around Baxter, but would have fought anyone to save her children.

"She was always walking on eggshells and trying to toe the line," Sue Clarke told the Coroners Court.

But the 31-year-old was strong and would have fought anyone to save Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey. 

Sue said Baxter won over the family after she initially disliked him, but around the time Laianah was born, he would belittle Sue and call her names.

"He treated me terribly. He disliked me immensely," she said.

Image: Supplied/Sue Clarke. 

Baxter once dropped Clarke on her face while training in the gym, cutting her lip.

"He thought it was hilarious, telling her to 'harden up'. He lacked empathy with everybody."

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Baxter also called his wife a "fat pig", wouldn't let her wear shorts or pink clothing - "because that’s for children" - and had to win races with his young kids.

He punished Clarke for "misbehaving" by not letting the children go to their grandparents because it would upset his wife.

"It was safer for Hannah to say nothing," Sue said.

Sue also told the inquest Clarke was "a beautiful soul", bright, bubbly and full of empathy. She wanted people to know her daughter was strong, loved her children and "would have fought anyone to save them".

Clarke told support workers prior to her death that she was choked during sex with Baxter.

Support workers who had contact with Clarke in the months before her death were called to the inquest to shed light on how she desperately sought help to deal with her abusive and violent ex-husband.

Crucial information that Clarke told support workers included her experiences of being choked during sex with Baxter previously. 

However, this information was not passed onto police in the months before she and her children were killed, the inquest was told. 

Clarke also had concerns about Baxter using technology to abuse her and was seeking advice on family violence. The fact Clarke said she had been a victim of choking made her case "high risk".

"We get a range of high-risk situations, so unfortunately it was a situation where we didn't have the manpower to complete it that week," the support worker said, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Before she was murdered, Clarke told police her ex husband "wouldn’t hesitate to kill me".

Senior constable Kirsten Kent shared with the inquest her dealings with Clarke before her death.

In December 2019, a police protection notice was put in place against Baxter, beginning the process of getting a permanent domestic violence order which Kent said she knew was going to be "an uphill battle".  

"Her level of fear was like, I have not seen such authentic fear from an aggrieved [person] before. I just knew he'd fight it. I'd started to build up a bit of a picture of what type of man he was," Kent told the inquest.

Clarke also texted Kent saying: "I know given the opportunity he wouldn't hesitate to kill me, I can see the look in his eyes. [He is] so not right in the head. The way he would put me in the choker hold showing me his jujitsu stuff was f**king scary. I'm strong, but not strong enough to get out of that."

In response to Clarke fearing for her life, Kent said: "Don't think like that, you have to be aware but not terrified."

Asked whether she appreciated how serious Clarke's situation was, Kent told the inquest: "I'm still not sure what further action I could have done at that point."

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Image: Facebook.

Days after a psychologist gave Clarke's ex a 'glowing review', he killed his family.

Domestic violence expert Heather Douglas says she understood Clarke was fearful of what Baxter might do if she applied for a protection order after they separated in late 2019. 

But Douglas said Clarke may have potentially had Baxter arrested and in police custody on charges such as stalking, if officers had asked the right questions.

"If the police officers were really aware of risk factors and had explained clearly to Hannah about her safety issues and encouraged her to make charges, we might have had a different outcome," she told the inquest. 

"People can't be expected to really know what their risk factors are but police should be expected to know and be able to articulate them to a victim."

The inquest was also told Baxter received a "glowing endorsement" from psychologist Vivian Jarrett barely a month before he killed his family. 

Dr Jarrett wrote a reference saying she had no concerns about Baxter's mental health. She told the inquest on Wednesday that she agreed Baxter was at a high risk of harming others. Dr Jarrett was also aware Baxter may be trying to "pull the wool" over her eyes during their six sessions from December 2019, to create good evidence for the family court in a bid to regain access to his children. But she did not detail those concerns in her notes. 

Instead, she wrote a favourable reference and provided police a statement a day after the family's deaths saying Baxter was "level-headed" and "low risk".

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"I did not have any evidence before me to say he was an unfit parent," Dr Jarrett said at the inquest.

The inquest also heard about a distributing note found on Baxter's phone after his death.

"I'm finishing your game. I don't want to play anymore. I have told the kids that you loved them. They will miss you, I'm sure," the note read. 

Baxter signed the note, "Row, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey."

Transcript shows Clarke describing her attacker to police.

A transcript of Clarke's conversation with police was made public during the inquest. 

The 31-year-old bravely detailed the crime committed by her estranged husband before she passed.

In the transcript, Clarke, who suffered burns covering 97 percent of her body from the attack, tells Sen Const. Skaines how Baxter entered her car while she was on her way to drop her children off at school.

"My ex-husband, he got, he got in the..." Clarke said.

"What's your ex-husband's name?" he asked.

"Rowan Baxter," she said.

"There’s a protection order against him. We got in the car to go to school, and he jumped in the front seat with me, and had a jerry can."

She continued: "With the jerry can, and then I saw this gentleman, this gentleman locking the car, and um, and I asked him to call the police, please... and then he just, he poured petrol everywhere and just lit the car."

Clarke then shared that Baxter had tried to break her wrist "two weeks ago".

Witness tells of Clarke's 'amazing strength' before her death. 

On the first day of the inquest, witnesses shared how they tried to help the 31-year-old after her estranged husband climbed into the passenger seat of her car armed with a knife and can of petrol.

According to witnesses, Clarke said Baxter instructed her to drive the car but instead, she stopped outside a house where physiotherapist Michael Zemek was washing his car.

Zemek said he first heard an hysterical scream, before Clarke yelled: "Call the police, call the police. He's trying to kill me. He's put petrol on me."

Zemek couldn't see or hear children, but said Baxter was holding Clarke in a bear hug with both arms around her, as if trying to keep her in the car. 

"As I approached the [car] window it just went bang," he told the inquest. 

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He used a hose to pour water on Clarke once she was out of the car, telling her to roll on the grass to extinguish the flames.

Zemek said Clarke was "amazingly strong for what she went through".

Image: Facebook. Another witness, Samantha Covey, stopped her vehicle when she saw smoke.

She hosed down Clarke, who had severe burns everywhere except on her feet, trying to keep her calm and conscious. The first words Clarke said were, "My kids, someone get my kids," Covey told the inquest.

Clarke said she couldn't believe Baxter had "done this".

"I've got a damn DVO," she told Covey.

Clarke said Baxter had dropped a lighter after she stopped the car, that she tried to fight him, even ripping his shirt.

"I couldn't stop him."

Baxter "growled" and "guarded" the car as it was engulfed by flames. 

Kerry Fernandez, who lived nearby spoke of hearing a chilling, "panicked mother scream" like nothing she had heard before.

While on the phone to emergency services, she saw Clarke's car come to a standstill before bursting into flames.

Fernandez used a fire extinguisher against the blaze that engulfed the car, Baxter, who was badly burnt, jumped in front of her, diving into the car.

It was only later witnesses realised he had emerged with a knife. Fernandez said she felt intimidated as it seemed the muscled man with a "deadpan" look was trying to stop her putting out the fire.

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He was "growling or something" with no words coming out.

"I felt like he was almost guarding the car," Fernandez said.

Listen to The Quicky: The women we must listen to after Hannah Clarke's death. Post continues after audio.


Inquest says frontline police responding to domestic violence are junior officers who need more training. 

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers told the inquest that domestic and family violence is the single most prevalent call for service in policing in the state - with some officers potentially spending up to 90 per cent of their time on such cases.

He said many frontline police responding to domestic violence calls were junior officers with the least training and experience.

"For our junior police, especially over the COVID times, the training has been limited and I believe they are put at a substantial risk... and that certainly puts victims at a substantial risk as well," he told the inquest.

"A lot of police feel like, with the lack of training, they're actually letting victims and the community down through no fault of their own."

The inquest also heard from Domestic and Family Violence Death Review and Advisory Board manager Susan Beattie, who said most officers dealing with domestic violence orders and breaches work in general duties and were not specialist investigators or detectives.

"In an ideal situation - and bearing in mind obviously resourcing and individual officers and their level of training et cetera - the strategies that are effective in responding to domestic and family violence is yes, supporting victims... but it's also being able to maintain, monitor and swiftly respond to the perpetrator," she said.

Clarke's parents provide an emotional victim impact statement.

As the inquest comes to an end, Clarke's parents - Sue and Lloyd - read out an emotional victim statement to the court. 

Sue told the court that both herself and Lloyd were forced to give up their jobs as a result of the "bewildering and shocking nature of our loss".

Sue said she has been unable to pack up the girls' room as they left it two years ago, and the fact her house is now "very quiet" has been a continual reminder of their loss.

"What we have suffered has cost us so much. We have trouble articulating the emotional and mental impact of this crime," Sue said. "Holidays, like Christmas and Mother's Day are almost unbearable. The gaping hole in our family will never be filled."

Speaking on behalf of Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey if they had a voice, Sue said they would say: "Why would you hurt us, daddy? Why take away our futures? Why would you take away our laughter ... our dancing? Why didn't you love us like a father is supposed to?"

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Sue continued: "Hannah would say 'why were you not a better man? A better father, a better husband? Why couldn't you leave us alone to live our lives in peace? As a society, we also need to ask ourselves why this can happen. Why did Hannah and the children receive no genuine protection?

"Why does it take the murder of four beautiful souls - and dozens of others every year - before governments respond?"

Image: Supplied/Sue Clarke.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men’s Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.

This article was originally published on March 22, 2022 and was updated on March 31, 2022.

- With AAP.

Feature Image: Facebook.