The coronial inquest into the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children has come to a close. Ms Clarke and her three children died inside of the family SUV on 19 February 2020. Their tragic deaths occurred as Rowan Baxter, Clarke’s former husband and father of their three children, covered the family car in petrol and set it alight.
Baxter also died at the scene as a result of self-inflicted knife wounds.
Baxter had been subject to a Domestic Violence Order as well as child custody orders.
The inquest tracked Baxters movement in the days prior. The inquest viewed CCTV footage displaying Baxter purchasing the materials he later used to murder his family. On 17 February 2020 Baxter can be scene at Bunnings purchasing a jerry can and zip ties, 36 hours prior to the events. The inquest was further made aware that the following day Baxter purchased fuel, as well as lollies and chocolate.
The inquest also heard audio recordings of a phone call between Baxter and a Mensline worker, a men’s support service, where Baxter can be heard blaming his estranged wife for their problems, a mere hours before the horrific event.
As part of the coronial inquest, professionals including Police and psychologists were interviewed in relation to their interactions with Baxter prior to 19 February 2022.
Ms Clarke’s mother expressed, ‘Holidays like Christmas and Mother’s Day are almost unbearable. The whole in our family is gaping and will never be filled.’
Domestic Violence expert Heather Douglas stated, ‘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 and to support charges we might have had a different outcome.’
Professor Douglas further advocated for different approaches to be taken in relation to domestic violence.
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