Pictured: Rowan and Hannah Baxter on their wedding day
A homicidal father who set fire to a car with his children and estranged wife inside tried to stop bystanders from rescuing them as they burned to death, before stabbing himself in the chest when he knew his evil deed was done.
Rowan Charles Baxter, 42, killed Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, by dousing them in petrol and setting them alight at Camp Hill, in Brisbane’s south-east, at about 8.20am on Wednesday.
Hannah Baxter managed to escape the burning Kia Sportage, and despite being engulfed by flames and burned so badly her skin was melting off, her only thoughts were for her children trapped in the back seat.
The 31-year-old repeatedly screamed ‘my children are in the car, save my children’ as shocked neighbours tried to douse the flames, Daily Mail Australia has been told.
But as fire took hold of the car, the 42-year-old killer was hell-bent on ensuring his kids would die.
He demanded locals stop trying to put out the flames – and insisted they didn’t attempt to pull the children free.
Aaron Snell, a neighbour who witnessed the tragedy, said before Baxter died he shouted at would-be rescuers and told them he wanted his family to die.
‘He was so angry and just going absolutely crazy… he wanted [the car] to burn,’ he told News Corp.
The monster got his wish. The three young siblings died at the scene, while Ms Baxter was taken to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital clinging to life.
She died of her injuries early on Wednesday night.
Aaliyah (left), six, Laianah (right), four, and Trey (centre), three, were killed in a quadruple murder-suicide on Wednesday morning when their father set their car alight on their way to school
Baxter often expressed his adoration – both for his wife but for his children as well – all over social media (Pictured with his two daughters)
Grim aftermath: A burnt-out Kia Sportage is seen on Raven Street where Rowan Baxter murdered his three children and estranged wife by dousing them in petrol and setting them alight
The shocking murder-suicide that has left Australia reeling unfolded just metres from the home of Ms Baxter’s parents on Raven Street, Camp Hill, as she drove her children to school
Hannah Baxter pictured with her ‘main man’, son Trey in a beach snap
The shocking murder-suicide that has left Australia reeling unfolded just metres from the home of Ms Baxter’s parents on Raven Street, Camp Hill, as she drove her children to school.
The couple broke up late last year after more than a decade together. They were locked in a custody battle after Ms Baxter moved to the property with the children.
In the wake of the tragedy, her sister-in-law said Ms Baxter’s parents, Sue and Lloyd, had ‘exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster’.
‘My beautiful sister in-law and my nieces and nephew had their lives taken by a disgusting human being they called their father,’ Stacey Roberts wrote in a fundraiser to help cover funeral costs.
‘For all those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once, they would know how much of a beautiful soul she was… All she ever wanted was happiness.
‘Her children were only a reflection of her.’
Baxter flooded his Facebook site with photos and videos of his children, describing them as ‘my world’
Pictured: Rowan and Hannah Baxter. Hannah died in hospital after suffering serious burns
BRISBANE MURDER-SUICIDE: HOW COWARDLY RAMPAGE UNFOLDED
Queensland Police officers are called to a family violence incident that allegedly involved the couple.
WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 19 – EARLY MORNING:
Ex-NRL star Rowan Charles Baxter, 42, is spotted filling a jerry can with fuel at a local service station.
Baxter dives into his estranged wife Hannah Baxter’s white Kia Sportage as she was preparing to do the school drop off on Raven Street, Camp Hill, a wealthy suburb of Brisbane.
He douses Ms Baxter, 31, and their three children – Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three – in petrol and sets the car alight.
Neighbours hear an explosion which sounded like a ‘gas bottle’ blast. At least four explosions followed.
Baxter grabs a knife from the SUV and stabs himself in the chest.
He tries to stop neighbours from saving his wife and children before dying in the street.
Ms Baxter escapes the burning car and screams: ‘He’s poured petrol on me.’
Horrified witnesses see her skin peeling off her body.
One heroic neighbour hoses her down in an attempt to save her life and suffers burns himself.
She is rushed to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in a critical condition.
Ms Baxter dies in hospital from the horrendous burns she suffered in the quadruple murder suicide.
WHO WAS ROWAN BAXTER?
Rowan Baxter was an ex-NRL player once contracted to the New Zealand Warriors.
He was a member of the President’s Selection 2005 pre-season team and worked in the sports and fitness industry for the last 20 years of his life.
He was raised in Tauranga, on New Zealand’s North Island, before moving to Australia.
Baxter lived in Brisbane alongside his wife, Hannah, and three children until as recently as late last year, when the couple separated.
The 42-year-old opened a gym, Intergr8 and CrossFit SMC in Capalaba, with his wife, but the pair closed it down as they worked through their split.
Ex Brisbane Broncos players Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillett have been known to train in the gym.
The ex-sportsman’s business website described him as an accomplished body weight trainer for NRL and AFL teams.
Unsuspecting family and friends believed he was a loving and dedicated father.
Neighbours from the old family home 3km away in Carindale told Daily Mail Australia the kids hadn’t been to visit their father much since the separation.
Baxter took the marriage breakdown badly and was living as a virtual recluse with his dog at the former family home.
In the backyard a basketball lay on the grass and children’s clothes and bed linen were hung on the clothesline, which a next-door neighbour said had been left there for weeks.
Burned-out wreck: Rowan Charles Baxter, 42, and his three children, Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, all died when the family’s white SUV was set alight at Camp Hill
A lone ball belonging to a child was spotted in the backyard of a home once occupied by a family of five who have now died in tragic circumstances
Hannah Baxter was desperate to save her babies even when covered in flames with her skin melting off
Hannah Baxter died just hours after her babies were doused in petrol and burned alive by her estranged husband Rowan
Before the separation, neighbours described a happy family, with the sounds of the children playing in the backyard often filling the air.
‘They seemed like a nice happy family. He was always polite and said hello,’ one said.
‘We would see them walk the kids to school and daycare up the road.’
Queensland Police officers were called to a family violence incident that allegedly involved the couple just last month, the Courier Mail reported.
But neighbours said they never heard any fights or even either of the couple yelling at their children.
The happy relationship of the past is a far cry from what witnesses experienced on Wednesday morning.
The family business: Rowan Baxter with Hannah Baxter and their three children pose in front of the company logo
Brisbane’s Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner rests a teddy bear at a growing vigil in Camp Hill
The couple were together 10 years before their separation in late 2019
One woman who lived right in front of where the car exploded said she came out of her house to be confronted with ‘a man and a woman on fire’.
‘I thought it was a car accident, you don’t really think that someone could do [what Baxter did]. The fire was intense, you could feel the heat radiating off it,’ she said.
Ms Baxter first yelled ‘he poured petrol on me’, before her anguished thoughts turned to her children inside the burning vehicle.
‘She was screaming ”my kids are in the car, save my kids” over and over,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Heroic neighbour Michael Zemek, who was washing his car over the road, ran to help and is still recovering in hospital after suffering serious burns himself.
TEAR-JERKING MOMENT LITTLE LAIANAH TELLS HER FATHER SHE ‘LOVES AND MISSES HIM SO MUCH’
Family killer Rowan Baxter uploaded a video to his Facebook page a year before he burned his entire family to death in a sick murder-suicide showing his middle daughter expressing her unconditional love for him.
Baxter’s ‘little middle’ Laianah scooped up her mother’s phone to record a heartfelt message for her father while he was stuck at work.
‘Hi Dad I miss you. I miss you at work,’ the young girl said before appearing to struggle for control of the phone with her elder sister.
‘I miss you so much and love you so, so much.’
Baxter wrote alongside the video: ‘Found this on my wife’s phone, my little middle missing her daddy at work.’
‘Priceless words before the older one jumps in to take over then listen to @hannbaxter in the background.
‘Classic Baxter household antics.’
Little over a year later, he would kill Laianah, her two siblings and their mother in cold blood.
Inferno family: Hannah and Rowan Baxter, with their three children (from left to right) Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey
Hannah Baxter survived the initial inferno, which killed her three children, Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three on Wednesday morning
The witness said he got Ms Baxter to roll on the ground until the flames were out, then sprayed the burns across her whole body with water.
Another neighbour, Andrew Sinclair, heard the explosion and came running, arriving to see Ms Baxter’s piercing gaze as two neighbours hosed her down.
‘She was standing with her arms out and her palm towards the hose. She looked straight at me, staring,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It was a look of pain and shock that will stay with me forever.’
Mr Sinclair likened the burns across her entire body to the famous photo of a burned girl in the Vietnam War.
‘She was dressed in active wear like a typical suburban mum and it was burnt, there was holes in it and her skin was falling off her body,’ he said.
CONFRONTING FOOTAGE SHOWS ROWAN BAXTER PRETENDING TO BREAK HIS SON’S NECK
Confronting footage has since surfaced of the father roughing his children up during a play fight in happier times.
In the vision, which Baxter uploaded to his Facebook account about a month ago, the three children giggled as he took turns grabbing them by the neck and pushing them away from him.
Trey, who was still in diapers at the time, eventually grew tired of the game after having his head slammed into a bed and ran off camera in tears.
Baxter laughed and continued playing with his two older girls.
The video was met with messages of support from his friends, who said he was teaching his children to have a thick skin.
‘That is the coolest bro. Kids love being roughed up then they don’t cry over every little thing. Awesome what you are doing,’ one said.
That same friend has since described Baxter’s reported actions as ‘inexcusable’.
‘What he has done is the saddest thing ever and inexcusable… I have nothing but good memories of the man and no one could have foreseen this happening. RIP to the little ones,’ he wrote underneath his original comment.
Baxter indicated the footage was taken just before bed time.
‘Sweet dreams my babies… love you to the moon and back,’ he wrote.
A policeman is pictured at the brick-and-tile Carindale residence where the father and his family had lived. A friend described the Baxters as a ‘beautiful family’
‘She was burned all over her body. It was like someone you’d see in a war movie. She was only still standing because of adrenaline, the pain she must have been in was unimaginable.’
Mr Sinclair said the fire was so intense he couldn’t even tell what kind of car it was.
‘No matter what the fire brigade did they couldn’t get the fire out, there was no chance to save those kids,’ he said.
‘I can’t understand why he would do this. Even if he didn’t love his family anymore there’s his parents, brothers, cousins who have to carry this with them forever.’
Another witness said the car rolled down the road with Baxter chasing after it. He then jumped into the burning car and grabbed a knife.
Flowers and a dolly were placed on a grassy patch near where the tragedy unfolded after three young children were killed
Wreckage: This is the white Kia Sportage SUV that went up in flames in Camp Hill, in Brisbane’s south east, at about 8.20am on Wednesday
Police attend the scene of a car fire which claimed the lives of an entire family of five
‘He stabbed himself in the chest and then he fell,’ a young woman whose house the car stopped in front of said.
‘You couldn’t hear or see anything from inside the car, it was over for those kids so fast. It’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.’
Baxter’s charred remains were hours later loaded into the back of a funeral van by police, alongside those of his three children.
The beloved young mother’s death shocked the street and the community where she ran a gym with her husband until it closed in December.
She had grown up nearby and was well known and loved among locals.
Sheets were still left on the line out the back of a home once occupied by the Baxter family
Neighbours said all they could see was thick, black smoke – followed by flames reaching into the air
Ms Baxter was once school captain at Whites Hill State College at the end of the street, where a younger classmate said she was like a ‘big sister’.
‘Hannah took me under her wing, walked me to school and made sure the other kids didn’t mess with me,’ Lauren said.
‘She was a lively, bubbly fun-loving girl, always happy, I never saw her angry.’
Ms Baxter was the DJ at blue light discos at the school and competed in swimming carnivals and cross country races.
Lauren’s mother Lisa said she saw Ms Baxter at the local shops on Saturday, and regretted not catching up with her because she was already talking to someone else.
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