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Hannah Clarke’s last words revealed

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 husband.

Ms Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were killed in February last year when Ms 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.

Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey were murdered by Ms Clarke’s estranged husband Rowan Baxter at Camp Hill in February 2020.

At a pre-inquest conference on Tuesday, the court was told that Ms 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 jerry can full of petrol.

She said Baxter doused the screaming woman and the car’s cabin in petrol restraining Ms Clarke as she desperately called for help.

Ms Clarke suffered shocking burns to her body following Baxter’s attack, later dying in hospital.

Dr 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.”

Ms Clarke died in hospital later that day.

Baxter, who was also engulfed in flames, retrieved a knife from the burning car and impaled himself.

Dr 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.

The court was told Rowan Baxter exhibited controlling behaviour towards Ms Clarke during their marriage and his actions on the day were not a ‘snap decision’.

“It is a mercy that such acts of unimaginable cruelty are rare in our society.”

The deaths of Ms Clarke and her children shocked the nation and prompted an outcry over Australia’s domestic violence laws.

Dr Brasch said Baxter’s actions were not “a sudden or snap decision”m as days earlier he was captured on CCTV shopping for a jerry can and black cable ties at a Bunnings store.

He had borrowed a car from his aunt – possibly so Ms 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,” Ms 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.”

Dr 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.