A HEROIC mum’s final words have been revealed after she and her children were doused with petrol and set alight by her rugby star ex.
Hannah Clarke, 31, died while trying to protect her three children when her ex-husband ambushed her on a school run in a premeditated attack, a court has heard.
Rowan Baxter, 42 was found dead in February 2020, alongside his ex-wife, two daughters Laianah, six, Aaliyah, four and three-year-old son Trey, by paramedics in Brisbane, Australia.
At the pre-inquest conference on Tuesday, the court was told that Ms Clarke left her mum’s home in Camp Hill at 8.30am on February 19, 2020, with her three children in the car’s back seat.
Jacoba Brasch, counsel assisting the coroner, said Baxter intercepted the car armed with a knife and jerry can of petrol, dousing the cabin and restraining Ms Clarke as she desperately called for help.
Even with the “indescribable horror” of being confronted by Baxter in the car, the court was told she bravely continued driving to seek help.
Dr Brasch said Ms Clarke drove 200m before the car exploded, rattling windows across the street: “Hannah freed herself from the car but was completely engulfed by flames.
“The flames were extinguished by a combination of rolling on the ground and water from a neighbour’s garden hose.
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Witnesses told how Hannah fled with her clothes in flames screaming "He's poured petrol on me!"
The three children, in the back seat, perished in the flames and Ms Clarke died in hospital later that day.
Baxter, who was also engulfed in flames, retrieved a knife from the burning car and impaled himself.
Dr Brasch said Ms Clarke’s first concern was for her children despite her grave injuries: “Her last words came just before she was sedated by paramedics.
"Hannah said she knew her children were dead and she didn’t want to survive.
“It is a mercy that such acts of unimaginable cruelty are rare in our society.”
The deaths of Ms Clarke and her children shocked the nation and prompted an outcry over Australia’s domestic violence laws.
Outside court, Hannah Clarke’s parents Sue and Lloyd Clarke said they hoped the inquest’s outcome would save lives.
Sue said: “It’ll be good to have it finally over and hopefully it will fill in a few missing pieces for us.
“If we can save one more life through things that are found out, that would be great.”
Ms Clarke and Baxter got married in 2012 but separated in 2019 when custody issues with the three children arose.
Dr Brasch said Baxter’s actions were not “a sudden or snap decision”.
Days earlier he was seen on CCTV shopping for a jerry can and cable ties at a Bunnings store, and he had borrowed a car so Ms Clarke would not recognise the car as he lay in wait outside her home.
The court was told Baxter used a highly manipulative combination of threat, intimidation, guilt, shame and raw anger to influence Ms Clarke’s actions.
DOMESTIC ABUSE: WHERE TO FIND HELP
If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence in the UK you have a number of options for help:
- In an emergency, call 999
- Women can call The Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge on 0808 2000 247 for free at any time, day or night. The staff will offer confidential, non-judgemental information and support
- Talk to a doctor, health visitor or midwife
- Men can call Men's Advice Line on 0808 8010 327 (Monday and Wednesday, 9am to 8pm, and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9am to 5pm) for non-judgemental information and support
- Men can also call ManKind on 0182 3334 244 (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm)
- If you identify as LGBT+ you can call Galop on 0800 999 5428 for emotional and practical support
- Anyone can call Karma Nirvana on 0800 5999 247 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) for forced marriage and honour crimes. You can also call 020 7008 0151 to speak to the GOV.UK Forced Marriage Unit
You can also email for support. It is important that you specify when and if it is safe to respond and to which email address:
- women can email email@example.com. Staff will respond to your email within 5 working days
- men can email firstname.lastname@example.org
- LGBT+ people can email email@example.com
The Survivor's Handbook from the charity Women's Aid is free and provides information for women on a wide range of issues, such as housing, money, helping your children, and your legal rights.
If you are worried that you are abusive, you can contact the free Respect helpline on 0808 802 4040.
Dr Brasch said: “When seen through this lens, the events of February 19, 2020, were the actions of a man who’d lost control over Hannah and her children and was determined to reassert that control, whatever the result."
She said Baxter rarely resorted to physical violence but displayed controlling and dominant behaviours in his relationships.
A domestic violence order was issued after Baxter forcibly took Laianah from her mother in 2019, and Baxter twisted Ms Clarke’s wrist during an argument in 2020.
Dr Brasch said: “It is almost incomprehensible why a man in Baxter’s position would do what he did,
“We don’t know Baxter’s precise intention when he got into Hannah’s car that morning … it matters little.
"He brought with him the tools which would take Hannah’s life and the life of their three children.
“The inquest must look backwards at the warning signs which were missed or, if identified, whether appropriate actions were taken at the time to address those risks."
Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley set a date of March 21, 2022 for the inquest.
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