Hannah Clarke’s estranged husband showed 29 out of 39 “lethal indicators” of domestic violence before pouring gasoline on her and her three children and setting them on fire, a forensic investigation has heard.
WARNING: This story contains content that readers may find disturbing.
- Indicators include past suicide threats, custody disputes and pending separation
- Hannah Clarke raised concerns with police after her estranged husband tried to abduct their middle child
- The court heard that it was difficult for the police to predict homicides of domestic violence
The details of the family’s last few months have been revealed during an investigation into their deaths, which is investigating whether further police and domestic violence could have been taken to protect them.
Clarke, 31, her daughters Aaliyah, 6, and Laianah, 4, and her son, three-year-old Trey, died after Rowan Baxter assaulted their vehicle and set it on fire in a suburban street in Brisbane in February 2020.
The investigation heard that Mrs. Clarke told police she feared her three children were around their estranged father, following an attempted “abduction” in late 2019.
It was heard that his level of risk was “invisible” and that Mrs Clarke had several interactions with the police in the months before the murderous attack.
A lawyer assisting forensic pathologist Jacoba Brasch QC described in detail the escalation of Ms Clarke’s involvement with officers, which started with “some concerns” in early December 2019.
She said Baxter had tried to “kidnap” the couple’s middle child, Laianah, leaving her “visibly suffering from some anxiety from the incident”.
Police records presented to the court showed that a protection order was then issued and the couple was “assessed as high risk”.
“[Ms Clarke] says she’s afraid to let Rowan Baxter see the kids after the incident, “the records showed.
Dr. Brasch told the court there were 39 “mortality indicators” that demonstrated the level of threat in situations of domestic violence.
She told the court that Ms. Clarke experienced 29 of these factors, including past suicide threats from Baxter, custody or disagreements over visitation, actual awaiting separation, age difference, and her intuitive sense of fear.
‘We do not have a crystal ball’
Superintendent Martain was questioned about domestic violence murders and protocols for officers.
He said it was difficult to predict homicide violence.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a crystal ball,” he said.
“A large proportion of homicides and domestic violence have had no previous contact with domestic and family violence with Queensland Police.
“I would love to find a risk assessment tool anywhere in the world that accurately predicts domestic violence and homicide.”
The evidence presented by Dr. Brasch is yet to be tested in court, with officers involved in the family’s case set to testify next week.
Baxter died on the spot of self-inflicted injuries.