A fitness trainer who was burned alive in a car with her three children endured a lengthy and expensive custody battle with her ‘monster’ husband before he savagely murdered them, her family has revealed.
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, as they left for school at 8.20am on Wednesday.
Hannah Clarke managed to escape the burning Kia Sportage but was scolded so badly her skin was melting off and she looked like ‘someone in a war movie’ as she tried to rescue her children.
The 31-year-old shrieked ‘my children are in the car, save my children’ as horrified neighbours forced her to roll over and sprayed water on her to douse the flames, Daily Mail Australia has been told.
Former NRL player Baxter was ‘going crazy’ and telling residents not to help his children before he stabbed himself to death. Ms Clarke was rushed to hospital where she died last night from her horrific injuries.
In a moving Facebook post on Thursday morning, her brother Nathaniel Clarke described the killer as a ‘heartless monster’ and revealed his parents had funded his sister’s custody battle.
‘My mum and dad have given every little thing they own to help my sister try and get away from this monster,’ he wrote.
Mr Clarke said he had had recently reconnected with his sister and the last thing she said to his wife was that she was looking forward to a ‘great’ year.
Rowan Charles Baxter (left), 42, killed his wife Hannah (right) and their three children by dousing them in petrol and setting them alight at Camp Hill, in Brisbane’s south-east, as they left for school at 8.20am on Wednesday
Taken too soon: Hannah Clarke is pictured centre on her wedding day next to her brother Nathaniel and her mother Suzanne
Left: Hannah Clarke pictured with her ‘main man’, son Trey in a beach snap. Right: Mrs Baxter on her wedding day with her husband
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
In a moving Instagram post (pictured) on Thursday morning, Mr Clarke said he had recently reconnected with Ms Clarke and revealed she had told family she was looking forward to a ‘great’ year
On Thursday morning dozens of family and friends visited the scene of the tragedy to pay tribute to Ms Clarke
Mourners pay their respects at a makeshift shrine near the scene. Mothers were seen kneeling by the flowers with children
‘Yesterday I had my sister, nephew and two nieces taken from me in the worst way possible by a heartless monster they called their dad,’ Mr Clarke wrote.
‘Everyone who has been lucky enough to be a part of their lives would know just how sweet and loving these kids and my sister really were.
‘The last thing my sister said to my wife was ‘I’m so excited this year will be great’.
He added: ‘I’m so grateful she and I got to reconnect and become such close friends before this tragedy. I will forever love you all.’
Mr Clarke’s wife Stacey also slammed Baxter in the wake of the savage murder-suicide, calling him a ‘disgusting human’.
She said Ms Clarke’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,’ Mrs Clarke 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.’
Ms Clarke’s brother Nathaniel Clarke (pictured with his wife Stacey) described the killer as a ‘heartless monster’ and revealed his parents had funded his sister’s custody battle
Mr Clarke’s wife Stacey also slammed Baxter in the wake of the savage murder-suicide, calling him a ‘monster’. She shared this photo of Hannah Clarke with her children
Grief: Two women embrace as they lay flowers at the scene of the grim tragedy in south-east Brisbane on Thursday morning
The shocking murder-suicide unfolded just metres from the home of Ms Clarke’s parents on Raven Street in Camp Hill.
The couple broke up late last year after more than a decade together. They were locked in a custody battle after Ms Clarke moved to the property with the children.
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 and had been left there for weeks, according to a next-door neighbour.
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)
The shocking murder-suicide that has left Australia reeling unfolded just metres from the home of Ms Clarke’s parents on Raven Street, Camp Hill, as she drove her children to school
Baxter flooded his Facebook site with photos and videos of his children, describing them as ‘my world’
Pictured: Rowan Baxter and Hannah Clarke. 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 Clarke’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 Clarke, 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 Clarke 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 Clarke 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.
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 Clarke was desperate to save her babies even when covered in flames with her skin melting off
Hannah Clarke 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 Clarke 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 Clarke 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 Clarke and Rowan Baxter, with their three children (from left to right) Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey
Hannah Clarke 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 Clarke 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 Clarke’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.
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.’
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.
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.
Neighbours said all they could see was thick, black smoke – followed by flames reaching into the air
Ms Clarke 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 Clarke 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 Clarke at the local shops on Saturday, and regretted not catching up with her because she was already talking to someone else.
Baxter played for NRL team the New Zealand Warriors before becoming a coach and a personal trainer. The couple worked at the same gym in Brisbane.
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Sheets were still left on the line out the back of a home once occupied by the Baxter family