Hannah Clarke’s ‘astounding bravery’ recognised as coroner delivers inquest findings

Hannah Clarke’s ‘astounding bravery’ recognised as coroner delivers inquest findings

Content warning: This article contains detailed references to domestic violence.
Hannah Clarke

A coroner has recognised the astounding bravery of Hannah Clarke and said police missed some opportunities to hold Rowan Baxter to account before he murdered Clarke and her three children in 2020.

Queensland Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley broke down as she delivered the findings of the inquest, concluding that Baxter was intent on executing his “murderous plans”, but also that agencies had failed to recognise the risk he posed.

Bentley described Baxter as a “master of manipulation”, making clear that police training needed urgent attention to prevent similar murders from unfolding in the future.

“I find it unlikely that any further actions taken by police officers, service providers, friends or family members could have stopped Baxter from ultimately executing his murderous plans,” she said.

In February 2020, Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey were murdered by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter.

The inquest was shown footage of Baxter buying zip ties, cleaning fluid and fuel just days before he jumped into Clarke’s car, poured petrol around and set it on fire while they were inside.

Bentley made multiple recommendations, including a five-day face-to-face training program for special domestic violence police offices, a mandatory face-to-face domestic violence module for all police officers, funding for men’s behaviour change programs, and a trial of a multi-disciplinary specialist domestic violence police station.

The inquest heard that Baxter may have first planned to kidnap his children and burn Hannah to death but moved to a separate plan when Clarke called for help from a bystander. Bentley said Clarke’s fears about Baxter “were genuine and realistic and confirmed in the very worst way”.

Hannah Clarke’s parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, said they hoped the findings of the inquest would help others in the future.

Lloyd Clarke said Baxter “was just one of those people…so callous and used everyone as his pawn in his monstrous way”.

“Every now and then I think a true monster is born and you can’t stop them,” Sue Lloyd said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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