WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.