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Hannah Clarke’s best friend claims she was rejected by police after warning them she was concerned the mother-of-three and her children would be killed by Ms Clarke’s estranged husband.
Nicole Brooks told the inquest on Thursday she had approached police six days before Ms Clarke, 31, and her children Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, were killed by Rowan Baxter in February, 2020 in Brisbane‘s south.
Baxter, 42, doused his family in petrol and set them alight while they were in their car and suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body and died at the scene from self-inflicted knife wounds.
Ms Brooks said she was fearful the family would be harmed and took her concerns to police officers on February 13.
‘I said, ‘I’m sure he’s going to take them out”, Ms Brooks told the inquest.
But officers said they couldn’t do anything until Baxter ‘does something’.
‘I said, ‘what if you don’t get a second chance?”’
Rowan Baxter pictured with his children Laianah, four, Aaliyah, six, and Trey, three
Ms Clarke, 31, and her three children were killed at the hands of her ex-partner Rowan Baxter when he doused them in petrol and set them alight in February, 2020 in Brisbane’s south
Hannah’s mother Suzanne Clarke told the inquest her eldest granddaughter, Aaliyah, fought back against her father despite living in fear of him.
She shared how the six-year-old once told her father not come back to the house after seeing him yell at her mother, Brisbane Times reported.
Mrs Clarke testified that while Laianah and Trey would speak to Baxter over video and FaceTime calls, Aaliyah would sometimes refuse.
On one occasion the six-year-old was FaceTiming with Baxter and told him she needed to ‘wash her hair’ and walked away – promptly ending the call.
‘And on days when he would sulk and not speak to Hannah, [Aaliyah] would actually say to him: ‘Daddy, Mummy said sorry, can’t you talk to her?’ But she would then be in trouble for coming into adult business,’ Mrs Clarke told the inquest in Brisbane.
She said the small girl had witnessed so much abuse in her short life that she felt she needed to stand up to her father.
After the couple separated, Baxter continued to see his children but on Boxing Day in 2019 he fled with Laianah, disappearing for more than two days.
Mrs Clarke said the family had been skateboarding in Bulimba and were crossing the road when Baxter asked if he could have the children for the night.
When Hannah said no, he took off across the main road while clutching Laianah, prompting the children’s mother to frantically chase him in her car.
Aaliyah screamed ‘Please Daddy, drop her, please Daddy’.
Laianah was recovered by police on December 29 after the pair fled to northern NSW.
Laianah was returned to Hannah and Baxter was served a protection order.
In a chilling note found after Rowan Baxter’s death, he wrote: ‘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’ (pictured is Baxter and Hannah Clarke)
Aaliyah was traumatised by the ordeal and furious she had not been able to stop him, her grandmother said.
Mrs Clarke said the six-year-old needed to be constantly reassured she wasn’t going to her father’s house.
‘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’,’ Mrs Clarke said.
Hannah told her mother and friends she feared for her life in the weeks before her estranged husband set her car alight, killing her and their three children.
‘When he kills me, he’ll be in jail and what happens to the children?’ the 31-year-old asked her mum Suzanne Clarke in a conversation about making a will the week before her death on February 19, 2020.
‘I know in my heart he’s going to kill me,’ she told friend Lynne Kershaw numerous times.
A chilling note was found on Baxter’s phone after his death where he revealed his reasoning for killing Hannah.
The children’s grandmother has told an inquest into their death’s that while Laianah and Trey would speak to Baxter over video and FaceTime calls, Aaliyah (left) would sometimes refuse
‘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.
‘You destroyed my life and I cannot move on. I hope all this was worth it for you and your family.
‘Now that you have no one to apparently control it, you’re a strong girl. You’ll be fine.’
Hannah treaded carefully around her controlling husband for years, he treated his family as possessions and his three children as pawns, Mrs Clarke said.
The inquest has been told Baxter frequently threatened to take his own life during their marriage, wanted sex every day, called Hannah 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.
‘She was always walking on eggshells and trying to toe the line,’ Mrs Clarke said.
She said Baxter also treated her terribly from around the time Laianah was born.
Hannah Clarke (pictured) told her mother and friends she feared for her life in the weeks before her estranged husband set her car alight, killing her and their three children
The inquest has been told Baxter frequently threatened to take his own life during their marriage, wanted sex every day and called Hannah a ‘fat pig’
Baxter once dropped Mrs Clarke on her face while training in the gym, cutting her lip.
He thought it was hilarious, telling her to ‘harden up’,’ Mrs Clarke said.
‘He lacked empathy with everybody.’
Baxter got into Hannah’s car just after she left her parent’s Camp Hill home to take the children – aged six, four and three – to school.
He poured fuel inside and set it alight.
The badly burnt adults escaped the vehicle, but Baxter, 42, stabbed himself with a knife, dying nearby. Hannah died later the same day in hospital.
Asked about Baxter’s actions that killed her daughter and grandchildren, Mrs Clarke said she didn’t think he knew how to love.
‘His form of love is as a possession,’ she said.
Mrs Clarke told the inquest Hannah 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’.
Mrs Clarke said Aaliyah was articulate and bright, a strong child who stood up to her father, while Laianah, who they called Little Middle, was a ‘little dynamo’.
Trey was the apple of his mother’s eye and a mummy’s boy, she said.
Mrs Clarke said Aaliyah (left) was articulate and bright, a strong child who stood up to her father, Laiana (right) was a ‘little dynamo’ and Trey (middle) was the apple of his mother’s eye
Mrs Clarke said focusing on Hannah’s legacy and giving her a voice helped her get out of bed each day.
She and her husband Lloyd have since become outspoken advocates against domestic violence and established the Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation in their daughter’s honour.
Mrs Clarke hoped for more understanding and awareness about family violence, including through advertisements and education campaigns.
The inquest continues.
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