A Queensland coroner was astounded by the cold-blooded and cunning methods used by Hannah Clarke’s killer, whom she dubbed “a master of manipulation.”
After a nine-day inquest in March, deputy state coroner Jane Bentley was obviously upset as she completed delivering her conclusions.
She claimed that the man who mercilessly set his ex-wife and their children, Trey, 3, Aaliyah, 6, and Laianah, 4, on fire was not mentally ill but rather very cunning.
Rowan Baxter reportedly started rallying friends and experts to back him once he realized his ex-wife would not give in to his requests for custody, according to Ms. Bentley.
According to her, he started to make a case for himself as the victimized ex-husband who was being mistreated by his ex-partner by being refused contact to his three children.
According to Coroner Bentley’s conclusions, “He obtained money and support from a number of friends and family members who accepted his falsehoods that Hannah was treating him unfairly and that he was being victimized by her.”
He would present himself as the victim and explain to the Clarkes that Hannah was the problem because she had mental disorders.
On February 19, 2020, Baxter killed Ms. Clarke and her three small children when he decided to boycott their morning school run.
Before killing himself with a knife in what the coroner called a “final act of cowardice,” he sprayed gasoline inside the vehicle, setting it on fire.
The children’s remains were discovered inside the car, but Ms. Clarke, 31, passed away in the hospital the following day from burns to 97% of her body.
The couple had been engaged in a contentious custody dispute over their three children just a few weeks before to the incident.
After Baxter kidnapped his youngest daughter on Boxing Day 2019 while spending time with the children, a domestic violence order was issued in January 2020.
At the inquiry, it was revealed that Baxter had put a “bawling” Laianah in his car before crossing the border and traveling to northern NSW, where he stayed for a few days.
The moment the helpless mother waved down Queensland Police officers and reported the incident has been captured on distressing bodycam video.
He has decided to not have them stay with him since I told him, “You need to wait before we can get this sorted, and you won’t return them,” Police hear Ms. Clarke informing them.
“The other two are completely out of their minds.” She was in tears.
The 42-year-old was furious with Ms. Clarke for refusing to let the kids spend the night with their father before a protective order was issued.
According to Ms. Bentley, “He took her to the house of his acquaintance in New South Wales.”
The acquaintance texted Hannah to blame her for the situation and tell her not to keep the kids, according to the report.
The four-year-old was returned to her mother by Queensland police three days later, and officers later knocked on Baxter’s door to serve him with a police protection order.
He agreed that his oldest daughter Aaliyah, who had been resisting him despite being scared of him, should be covered by the protective order.
He complained, saying, “she can’t do that,” in reference to his ex-partner, when the cops informed him that he would be unable to visit Laianah.
Later, on January 31, Baxter beat his ex-wife in violation of a domestic violence order after placing pornographic pictures of her in her car’s backseat.
He said to a police officer who arrived to speak with him about the breach, “I’m very smart about what I do.”
The 42-year-old appeared in court on January 8 with two attorneys and a lawyer to challenge the domestic violence order.
He was able to persuade all three of them to represent him pro gratis after playing the victim and claiming to have financial difficulties.
He served pro gratis because Baxter was friends with his brother and Baxter claimed that he was having financial difficulties, according to Ms. Bentley.
Days later, he wrote on Facebook, “thanking his supporters and declaring that having his children taken from him was crippling and he would not stop fighting to have them 50% of the time,” that having his children taken away from him was devastating.
Despite overwhelming evidence that he had been manipulative, physically abusive, and controlling, Ms. Bentley said it was extremely concerning that some of his friends and associates continued to insist that he had been a victim.
She claimed that several witnesses had told police that Baxter was a devoted husband and father who loved his family.
The coroner noted that some believed he was entitled of sympathy since he was ‘losing everything’ and that Ms Clarke was keeping his children from him.
Ms Bentley stated that Hannah “continued to ensure safe interaction between Baxter and the children even while Hannah was extremely afraid of him.”
The bereaved parents of Ms. Baxter stated that they are aware that the killer who took the lives of their daughter and grandchildren continues to have followers.
The anchor of the Today Show, Allison Langdon, questioned whether more needed to be done to inform victims’ loved ones’ kin and friends of the telltale indications of abuse.
‘Definitely you think we need a lot more education on the red flags so family and friends can recognise that,’ Sue Clarke told the Today Show on Thursday.
‘Yes he still has quite a few supporters around. We need to educate people so they do understand exactly what a red flag is.
‘One of those recommendations out there is also perpetrator training,’ Lloyd Clarke told the hosts.
‘So they get counselling, if they do a DV or DVO out on them, they’ll have specialised training to try and sort of curb them and get into their minds and work out what is going on.’
Baxter claimed that having his children stolen from him was ‘crippling’ and that he would not quit fighting for joint custody.
The inquest was shown CCTV footage showed Baxter buying zip ties, cleaning fluid, a petrol can and three Kinder Surprise chocolates days before the killings.
Samantha Covey was driving her children to swimming lessons when she spotted Ms Clarke’s car engulfed in flames.
She spotted Ms Clarke lying on the grass near her car following valiant efforts to save her children saying: ‘My kids, someone fetch my kids.’
I find it hard to believe he did this. I have a DVO. I find it hard to believe he did this. Where are my children and babies? How is this even possible. She informed Ms. Covey, “Those are my babies in there.”