The heartbreaking final words of murdered Brisbane mum Hannah Clarke, 31, have been revealed in the Coroners Court of Queensland, in a pre-inquest conference on December 7, 2021.
Today’s conference into the deaths of Hannah Clarke, and her three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, who were tragically killed in a horrific car fire allegedly deliberately lit by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter, 42, was set to determine exactly what evidence and factors needed to be considered during the inquest itself. The pre-inquest would address which witnesses to be called, as well as the length of the inquiry into one of the country’s most shocking tragedies.
Hannah and the children were leaving her parents’ house in the Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill to make their way to school at around 8.30am on February 19, 2020, when she was ambushed by Baxter, who allegedly entered the vehicle, armed with a knife, and a can of petrol. Baxter allegedly ordered Hannah to drive, before dousing her, and the car with petrol, and then set the vehicle alight. The vehicle then exploded. Baxter fatally stabbed himself at the scene on Raven Street.
“Hannah screamed at Baxter to get out of the car. Her screams were desperate and fearful – we know this because a worried neighbour recorded them,” Dr Jacoba Brasch QC told the coroner.
“Hannah freed herself from the car but was completely engulfed by flame,” she said.
“The flames were extinguished by a combination of rolling on the ground and water from a neighbour’s garden hose.”
“Her last words came just before she was sedated by paramedics; Hannah said she knew that her children were dead and she didn’t want to survive,” Dr Brasch said.
In more heartbreaking insight into the death of the young family, Dr Brasch told the coroner that the evidence indicated that Baxter’s actions that morning “were not a sudden nor snap decision”.
“Two days earlier, on the morning of 17 February 2020, Baxter went to a Bunnings store and bought black cable ties and a plastic jerry can.”
Dr Brasch outlined the preparatory actions undertaken by Baxter in the days leading up to the alleged attack, saying:
“Baxter used a highly manipulative combination of threat, intimidation, guilt, shame and raw anger to influence Hannah’s actions, her choices and her other personal and professional relationships.”
“The evidence will shine a spotlight on this form of domestic violence; a form which is subtle and nuanced, even imperceptible to all but the most expert eyes, yet has devastating consequences.”
“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.”
“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 purpose of this inquest is not to identify the deceased, the cause nor the place of their deaths, or even the perpetrator who took their lives.
“The evidence on those matters is abundant and tragically, painfully clear.
“This 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.”