In the months before she and her kids were murdered, Hannah Clarke's husband promoted the image of a happy family. But her suffering began long before he set the car alight.
Mother-of-three Hannah Clarke fled her controlling husband with her young kids in tow only months ago but continued to face an escalating scourge of violence at his hands.
The 31-year-old and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were horrifically set upon by Rowan Baxter, 42, on a quiet Brisbane street in broad daylight on Wednesday morning when he torched the family car before taking his own life.
The pain Clarke and her babies must have suffered in their final moments is unimaginable, but her suffering began long before.
Their deaths also serve as a reminder of the patterns of abusive behaviour or control that can take different forms in different relationships.
• Car-fire murders: Mum and three kids die after ex-Warriors player Rowan Baxter lights blaze
• Car-fire murders: Former Warrior Rowan Baxter's wife Hannah Baxter dies after fire that killed couple's three kids
• Car-fire murders: Hannah Baxter's last words after former Warrior Rowan Baxter set fire to car on quiet Brisbane street
• Car-fire murders: Former Warrior Rowan Baxter the real failure here, not the system
"Violence and abuse can happen in any kind of relationship. They are never OK," Australia's national domestic and family violence confidential counselling service, 1800 RESPECT, states.
"Abuse doesn't have to involve hurt to your body, or physical violence, to be domestic or family violence."
As recently as September, he promoted the image of a happy family to friends and family on Facebook, publicly praising his wife for doing "a brilliant job with the kiddies".
But Baxter's abusive behaviour in the months preceding the abhorrent killings, as revealed by his wife's family, made him what the counselling service considers a "perpetrator of violence".
According to The Courier-Mail, Baxter appeared in court charged with breaching a domestic violence order and was allowed to walk free on January 29, just weeks before he murdered his young family. He was due to face court again on April 8.
Queensland Police on Thursday confirmed they had previously engaged with Hannah Clarke and her estranged husband "in relation to domestic violence issues" and "paperwork and applications were put to court".
"Every situation is unique and needs to be approached that way," Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said.
"There is no excuse for perpetration of violence in our community.
"There is certainly no excuse for perpetration of violence amongst families behind closed doors."
He said police had worked with the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service to support Hannah Clarke and Baxter had also been referred to support services.
HANNAH CLARKE'S LIFE WITH ROWAN BAXTER
Hannah Clarke was 19 when she met Baxter, 11 years her senior, from New Zealand.
The former rugby league player proposed on a beach in 2011 and they married in Kingscliff in 2012, going on to have three children.
On their third wedding anniversary in 2015, he reiterated his pledge to love her "always and eternally".
That same day, she posted on her social media accounts about her "soulmate" and "baby daddy".
Hannah Clarke was fiercely fit and ran daily classes at the gym the couple owned together in Capalaba, a 20-minute drive from the crime scene.
She represented Queensland in trampolining for four consecutive years, trained through all three of her pregnancies – on at least one occasion until she was 36 weeks' pregnant – and was an advocate of fitness for "Mums n Bubs".
In February 2019, she competed in the Fittest Mum finals for Crossfit in New Zealand.
Hannah Clarke regularly took her three children to work, describing her two daughters as "little weapons" and her son as her "main man".
On December 3, Trey, 3, was pictured on a rower machine at the gym next to his "grandpa", Hannah's dad Lloyd Clarke.
"The old dog with the young bull," the post was captioned.
Baxter posted workout videos up until September on the gym's YouTube page and the last post on the Integr8 Facebook page was made one week before Christmas.
But the Integr8 gym closed in December weeks after the pair are believed to have separated.
A neighbour told The Courier-Mail the family had lived at a brick rental property in Carindale for the last two years before Clarke moved out.
At the time of her death, Hannah Clarke and her kids were living in Camp Hill with her parents.
Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke told the Daily Mail their daughter's estranged husband was a "control freak".
"She had to get the kids and just go without saying anything, because he was such a control freak and would get into her headspace and she would give in," Mr Clarke said.
They said his "downward spiral" began when their daughter left the marriage in early November.
It is understood police had been called to a family violence incident in January, and the couple were working on custody arrangements.
Mr and Mrs Clarke said Baxter had kidnapped one of his small daughters on Boxing Day last year and taken her interstate for four days until police returned the child to the Clarke house.
On Instagram, her mother Suzanne Clarke posted about a "much-needed family day" with her daughter and three grandchildren on December 30.
The doting grandma also took them to the Queensland Museum in Brisbane on January 19.
Clarke's most recent photo was shared last Saturday, February 15, of her grandchildren.
"Nothing makes me happier than having my family all together," she said in the caption of a photo taken at SeaWorld, with the hashtags #familyiseverything and #grandkidsarethebest.
The Queensland fitness community today mourned the death of the mother and her "angels".
Friend Manja Whaley, on Facebook on Thursday, said she recently trained with Hannah Clarke.
"We did whilst out kids played, I'm heartbroken, so sad," she said.
"We're devastated by the tragic loss of one of our Queensland trampoline gymnastics coaches, Hannah Baxter, and her beautiful children," Skybound Gymnastics on the Gold Coast wrote.
"We hope to support their family as much as we can. RIP angels."
Another online tribute read: "Gymnastics Queensland sends their condolences to the family and friends of trampoline coach, Hannah Baxter, who tragically passed away with her children due to horrible circumstances.
'SO GLAD I GOT OUT'
In texts obtained by The Courier-Mail, Hannah Clarke recently told a relative of her husband that she was "so glad I got out when I did".
She said she had a domestic violence order in place and was "struggling" but felt "safe" with her parents.
"The only reason he had that business was to control her, to know where she would be at all times – at the gym," the relative said.
As she clung to life yesterday, her father told a neighbour they didn't think she'd pull though.
"I couldn't figure out how come Hannah was in the car with him (Rowan Baxter)?" Brian Cavanagh told Nine.
On social media on Thursday, Lloyd Clarke wrote: "The scum rots in hell".
"If he truly loved them he would not have killed his children in such a horrible way."
Mr Clarke said the man was a "monster" who only cared about himself.
"He might have said he cared and loved his children but I know it was always about him coming first," he said.
Hannah Clarke's brother, Nat Clarke, on Thursday also shared his thoughts on the "monster" who took his sister, nephew and two nieces away "in the worst way possible".
"Everyone who has been lucky enough to be apart of there lives would know just how sweet and loving these kids and my sister really were.
"The last thing my sister said to my wife was 'I'm so excited, this year will be great'.
He said he was trying to help raise awareness about violence against women while also raising money for his parents "who have given every little thing they own to help my sister try and get away".
"I will forever love you all," he wrote.
Friend of the family, Korri Loader, cried as she lay flowers on the Camp Hill street on Thursday.
"(She) would do anything for those kids, even if it meant for herself not to be here, she would've done everything," Loader told reporters at the scene.
Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said police were trying "to understand the family dynamics and understand the history of that family" and made an "impassioned" public plea.
"If you had any knowledge of the Baxter family, come forward and speak to police," he said.
"We need to look at every piece of information and to put it bluntly, there are probably people out there in the community that are deciding which side, so to speak, to take in this investigation."
Thompson said the information at hand has led police to believe the three young children and their mother "were killed" and he doesn't believe "there's any suspicious circumstances" around the death of Rowan Baxter.
"We believe at this point in time, he succumbed to injuries from the fire and a self-inflicted injury as well."
He said police were "committed to fighting the fight on eradicating family domestic violence".
White Ribbon Australia says, on average, one woman is murdered by a current or former partner every week.
According to the last Personal Safety report issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately one in four women experienced violence from a partner from the age of 15.
MENTAL HEALTH - WHERE TO GET HELP
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - DO YOU NEED HELP?
If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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