WARNING: This article contains distressing content
A court has been told the final words of murdered Queensland mum Hannah Clarke as a coroner prepares to examine the horrific deaths of the woman and her three children at the hands of her estranged Kiwi husband.
Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were killed in February last year when Clarke's ex-husband Rowan Baxter ambushed them on their way to school.
A coroner will now examine the "indescribable horror" of the four's deaths as well as the adequacy of the domestic violence services and police response.
At a pre-inquest conference, the court was told that Clarke left her mother's Durimbil St home in Camp Hill shortly before 8.30am on February 19, 2020, with her three children in the car's back seat.
Dr Jacoba Brasch, counsel assisting the coroner, said Baxter intercepted the car and got into the passenger seat armed with a knife and jerrycan full of petrol.
She said Baxter doused the screaming woman and the car's cabin in petrol, restraining Clarke as she desperately called for help.
Brasch said the car exploded, rattling windows across the street.
"Hannah freed herself from the car but was completely engulfed by flame," she said.
"The flames were extinguished by a combination of rolling on the ground and water from a neighbour's garden hose."
Clarke died in hospital later that day.
Baxter, who was also engulfed in flames, retrieved a knife from the burning car and impaled himself.
Brasch said Ms Clarke's first concern was for her children despite her grave injuries.
"Her last words came just before she was sedated by paramedics; Hannah said she knew her children were dead and she didn't want to survive," she said.
"It is a mercy that such acts of unimaginable cruelty are rare in our society."
The deaths of Clarke and her children shocked the nation and prompted an outcry over Australia's domestic violence laws.
Brasch said Baxter's actions were not "a sudden or snap decision" as days earlier he was captured on CCTV shopping for a jerrycan and black cable ties at a Bunnings store.
He had borrowed a car from his aunt – possibly so Clarke would not recognise the car as Baxter "lay in wait outside her home".
"It is almost incomprehensible why a man in Baxter's position would do what he did," Brasch said.
"It seems Baxter used a highly manipulative combination of threat, intimidation, guilt, shame and raw anger to influence Hannah's actions, her choices and her other personal and professional relationships.
"When seen through this lens, the events of February 19, 2020, were the actions of a man who'd lost control over Hannah and her children and was determined to reassert that control, whatever the result
"We don't know Baxter's precise intention when he got into Hannah's car that morning … it matters little. He brought with him the tools which would take Hannah's life and the life of their three children."
Brasch said the inquest was an opportunity to reflect on what could be done differently or better to "identify the escalating risks posed by Baxter".
"The inquest must look backwards at the warning signs which were missed or, if identified, whether appropriate actions were taken at the time to address those risks," she said.
Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley set a date of March 21, 2022 for the inquest.
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
How to hide your visit
If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.