Hannah Clarke's killer ex-husband was a "master of manipulation" who duped close friends, family and professionals into supporting him while meticulously planning the murder of his former wife and children, a coroner has found.
The disturbing portrait of the murderous Rowan Baxter was revealed as deputy Queensland state coroner Jane Bentley handed down her long-awaited findings into the deaths of Hannah and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3.
Even before the horrifying act in February 2020, New Zealand-born Baxter spun a web of lies of Hannah treating him badly, feeding into a complex where he believed he was the real victim.
Bentley found Baxter made ludicrous claims that Hannah was "crazy", depressed and having a relationship with someone at the gym in an attempt to portray his ex-wife in a negative light.
She said this was done to try and garner support after Hannah left him.
"He contacted family members, friends, old neighbours, ex-gym members and associates that he had not been in contact with for years," Bentley said of Baxter.
"He attempted to get them on side and blamed Hannah for the separation and his inability to see his children."
Even with a protection order in place, Baxter was still able to work around police's attempts to keep him in check.
He breached the order a month before killing his family by twisting Hannah's arm when she discovered explicit pictures of herself in his car.
When told the order was still in place and he could not breach it, Baxter told officers: "I'm very smart about what I do."
Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey were killed by Baxter on February 19, 2020, when Baxter ambushed the family on their way to school.
After dousing the family car in petrol, he set it alight.
The children died almost "immediately" from inhalation of fumes and burns. Hannah died from multi-organ failure as a result of the blaze and Baxter died from a self-inflicted stab wound after the attack, Bentley found.
Over the two-week inquest in March, the court was told Hannah's marriage to Baxter was defined by his controlling and abusive behaviours.
Some of these included controlling what Hannah wore and who she could see, demanding sex from her every night, berating her body image and at times becoming physically abusive.
He would also frequently "use the children against her", such as by becoming aggressive towards them if Hannah refused to comply with his demands and threatening to take them away from her.
In her findings, Bentley described Baxter as a "master of manipulation" who killed himself in a "final act of cowardice".
Associates and friends of the killer had described him as "controlling and driven", competitive, someone who always painted himself as the victim, short-tempered and "an incredibly insecure person who put on a "macho" front and only felt valued when he perceived himself to be superior to others".
In text messages to a friend, Baxter called Hannah "a joke", "f**n disgraceful" and a "f**n c**t of a thing".
One friend stopped communicating with him upon realising talking to Baxter was "feeding into his victimhood mentality".
"Baxter made numerous appointments for counselling and with doctors – all of these actions were designed to assist him to contest the DVO and get what he wanted from the Family Court process," Bentley said.
"He did not have any real wish to obtain counselling or address his problems. He manipulated doctors and psychologists."
Bentley found there were missed opportunities by police to keep Baxter accountable, citing their response to his breach of the domestic violence order.
The court on Wednesday was told there was inadequate training for police officers around domestic violence.
Bentley made four recommendations, including the Queensland government funds the QPS to provide a "five-day face-to-face domestic violence training program for all specialist domestic violence police officers".
How to get help
If you're in danger now:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so 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: Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)
• Shine: Helpline - 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)
• It's Not Ok: Family violence information line - 0800 456 450
• Shakti: Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children. Crisis line - 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)
• Ministry of Justice: For information on family violence
• Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women
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