Hannah Clarke inquest: What we know so far

Mar 26, 2022
Everything we know so far from the Hannah Clarke inquest. Source: @smallsteps4hannah/Instagram


An inquest into the death of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her children started on Monday 21, March 2022.

The inquest comes two years after Clarke’s estranged husband, Rowan Baxter, allegedly doused the car and the family in petrol before setting it alight on February 19, 2020, killing Clarke’s three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, before fatally stabbing himself.

Witness Accounts 

The inquest heard from witnesses and first-responders who attended to the fatal scene in Camp Hill.

One neighbour, Michael Zemek, told the inquest he heard a “hysterical scream” on the morning of the alleged murder.

Zemeck said he was washing his car in his driveway when he heard Clarke shouting “Call the police, call the police, he’s trying to kill me, he’s poured petrol on me.”

“Baxter had Hannah in a bear hug, he was sitting in the front seat … she was trying to get free,” he said.

He described the car erupting in flames to the courts.

“It was a bang and a blackness … I turned my head around briefly startled and when I looked up, the whole inside front (of the car) was ablaze,” Mr Zemek said.

“She was totally ablaze, from head to toe, in flames.

“I grabbed the hose and tried to get her to roll on the ground so I could try and extinguish the flames.”

Firefighter Anthony Eggins, told the court that upon seeing the car in flames he quickly realised “any persons inside were already dead” and had “no chance” of survival.

“There was no help for them,” he said.

“It was blatantly obvious that anyone still inside the car was not coming out.”

It was reported that despite Clarke suffering burns to 97 per cent of her body, she was ‘incredibly brave’ and gave a detailed account of the incident to police.
Clarke succumbed to her injuries and later died in the hospital.

Sue Clarke Testifies

Clarke’s mother, Sue Clarke, told the court of Baxters violent and controlling behaviour leading up to the fatal incident.
She recalled Baxter telling Clarke she wasn’t allowed to wear pink and would often punish Clarke for “misbehaving”.
Sue spoke of an instance where her face was split open after Baxter allegedly dropped her at the gym during a training session.
“He laughed at me and told me to ‘harden up’, that it happens all the time if you play football,” Sue said.
“He lacked empathy with anybody.”
Sue said she wasn’t ever allowed to condemn Baxter or his actions, telling the inquest it would end with Clarke pleading with her to stop.

“If I spoke out I would get phone calls in tears,” she said.

“‘Please Mum, apologise’. She’d be so distraught that I’d have to ring and apologise.”


Improving Domestic Violence Responses

The inquest, which aims to uncover how Clarke and her children’s deaths could have been avoided, has made domestic violence a “massive priority” for authorities.

Speaking with the ABC, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said further training is always necessary to improve the situation for victims of domestic violence.

“I definitely would support any better training, strategies and initiatives as we study from around the world,” she said.

“We started doing coercive control training before it was a recommendation.

“Some initiatives and strategies we have are being studied by universities Australia-wide, and are extraordinarily successful.”

Carroll said she would be happy to learn from other countries and look into how they handle domestic violence cases.

“But can we get better? Anyone can get better. I think it is incumbent on us to learn about what the world is doing in this space and making sure that we are learning from each other.

“Unfortunately for society, domestic violence is a massive priority for the organisation, it’s 40 per cent of our work.”

The inquest is ongoing, more updates to follow.


FAMILY VIOLENCE DISCLAIMER: If you are concerned about domestic and family violence in your family, friends or workplace, contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 737 732, Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.

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