What could have stopped evil killer

 

The horrendous deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three beautiful children at the hands of her abusive, controlling husband rocked Australia to its core in February.

Now, nine months later, her shattered family has revealed exactly how the devoted mum's relationship drastically and rapidly deteriorated before ending in unbelievable tragedy.

Speaking with The Guardian's Amanda Gearing for the publication's Full Story podcast, Hannah's parents Suzanne and Lloyd Clarke have bravely shared their daughter's story in a bid to help others escape domestic violence.

The Clarkes are especially hoping to highlight the dangers of "coercive control" - a pattern of controlling and manipulative behaviour which can be a warning sign of potential domestic violence and even homicide.

Rowan Baxter displayed a string of coercive control behaviours. Picture: Facebook
Rowan Baxter displayed a string of coercive control behaviours. Picture: Facebook

HOW 'CHARMING' HUSBAND BECAME A KILLER

The Clarkes told The Guardian their daughter first met Rowan Baxter at a PCYC in 2008 when she was 19 and he a 30-year-old father.

He pursued her and the relationship moved fast, with the couple tying the knot several years later.

Mr Clarke said initially, there were no signs of the horror to come.

"(He) was a personal trainer and he had some very high-end clients … He was so charming and so good. We did a lot of things together," he said.

But a year after the couple's 2012 wedding, Baxter's behaviour changed drastically, with Mrs Clarke comparing it to "flicking a switch".

"As he got a grip over Hannah, he removed her from her brother and from us - he started putting in wedges, and it wasn't until then that we realised how controlling he was," Mr Clarke said.

In late 2019, Hannah Clarke realised her and her children's lives were in danger, so she and Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, fled to her parents' home in Camp Hill, Brisbane.

She was aware of the risk she was facing, and discussed her need to write a will with her mother.

Tragically, it wasn't enough to save them, with Baxter ambushing the young family during the school run on February 19, jumping into the car, dousing them in petrol and setting them alight before taking his own life.

The children died at the scene while Hannah - with burns to 97 per cent of her body - desperately screamed for help and later gave police one final statement before she succumbed to her injuries in hospital later that day.

 

WHAT IS COERCIVE CONTROL?

The Clarkes are now pushing for coercive control laws - which already exist in the UK - to be introduced in Australia.

They believe the laws could have prevented the tragedy, and that widespread public knowledge of the dangerous behaviour could have helped them pick up on the warning signs.

The Guardian reports that there is a 900 per cent increased risk of intimate partner homicide when coercive control, violence and a recent separation occur within a relationship, and there are 25 types of coercive behaviours that are officially accepted as crimes in the UK.

The Clarkes say Baxter exhibited 17 of them, including isolating Hannah from loved ones, stalking her, preventing her from visiting the doctor, subjecting her to daily rape, destroying the family's belongings and restricting access to vital needs like sleep and food.

"We want to make sure the community gets to know about coercive control. Education needs to be brought in - not just state, but nationally," Mr Clarke said.

"If we would have had that list to tick the boxes, that would have confirmed this was more than just a marriage break-up."

"I'm sure it would have saved her," Mrs Clarke said.

The Clarke family have been tirelessly raising awareness in the wake of the tragedy.
The Clarke family have been tirelessly raising awareness in the wake of the tragedy.

HANNAH HONOURED

Just last week, it was revealed that the brave Queensland mum was posthumously honoured in the inaugural marie claire Australia's Women of the Year list for her heroic efforts.

"Though she had burns to 97 per cent of her body, Hannah still managed to give police a clear and articulate statement," Mrs Clarke told marie claire.

"She pushed herself to repeat it; the police were in awe. It was truly to make him pay - she was going to fight for her babies to the end."

The Small Steps 4 Hannah Foundation was also launched in August this year to raise awareness about controlling relationships and in a bid to criminalise coercive control.

 

Originally published as What could have stopped evil killer

Baxter’s behaviour changed like ‘flicking a switch’.
Baxter’s behaviour changed like ‘flicking a switch’.


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