The grieving brother of murdered mum Hannah Clarke has recalled the harrowing moment his wife called him to break the news about his sister’s horrific death.
Nat Clarke was five hours into his shift in Moranbah, in Central Queensland last Wednesday when he received an earth-shattering phone call that changed his life.
His sister Hannah, 31, was fighting for her life more than 1,000km south in Camp Hill, in Brisbane, after her husband Rowan, 42, doused her with petrol and set her alight.
‘At the time I didn’t know how big all this was. I had been working, I wasn’t on social media or anything,’ Nat told Triple M’s Big Breakfast on Monday.
‘I sort of knew what happened – there had been an accident. My wife had called me to say, look, just come home, I knew sort of what happened, I just didn’t know the whole world knew.’
Hannah Clarke’s brother, Nat (far right) was five hours into his shift in Moranbah, in far north Queensland when he received an earth-shattering phone call that changed his life
Mr Clarke (pictured with his family during a vigil for his slain sister) said his wife called him to tell him he had to come home
Nat said he informed his bosses who immediately told him he should leave work and head home.
‘They [employer] were just like, “mate, you’re on a plane straightaway. No if, buts, or maybes, we’re getting you home even if we have to charter a plane for you.”‘
My wife had called me to say, look, just come home, I knew sort of what happened, I just didn’t know the whole world knew.’
At the time, he admitted, he found his colleagues’ reactions a ‘bit weird’, and said it wasn’t until he got back to Brisbane that he realised the gravity of the situation.
Ms Clarke, 31, died in hospital later that day after suffering more than 90 per cent burns to her body.
Her injuries were so severe, the only part that wasn’t horrifically burnt was the sole of her foot.
Her three children Laianah, aged four, Aaliyah, six, and Trey, three, all died at the scene before their father took his own life by stabbing himself in the chest.
Nat admitted there had been times the family had sensed something was off about Baxter’s behaviour, but didn’t think much of it.
Ms Clarke and her children, Laianah (bottom) Aaliyah (top) and Trey (held by his mother) were killed at the hands of their father
Ms Clarke, 31, died in hospital later that day after suffering more than 90 per cent burns to her body. Her husband Rowan then took his own life by stabbing himself in the chest
‘There were certain things he did that you sort of question…but you sort of let it slide,’ he said.
‘I think that’s the worse thing about this sort of domestic violence; they sort of make the other half play their part. My sister would always play it [his behaviour] down.
‘The worst part of this type of abuse is that you can’t see it. You get those feelings, but because you can’t see it, you don’t know.
‘We look back now and we’re like, “well what about this or that” and there were signs everywhere.’
Authorities revealed the couple were known to police over domestic violence issues in the past, but Nat said he doesn’t think the system failed his sister.
‘At the end of the day domestic violence [order] is just a bit of paper, if they want to break it, they will. We definitely got to look into being able to change that to some degree.
‘I think with someone like that, they’re just such a selfish and sadistic person that they’ve got win it, it’s gotta be theirs….he thought he was better than the police, I think.’
Nat was among the thousands who packed a vigil for the murdered family on Sunday evening at Hannah’s old school.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (left), parents to Hannah Clarke Lloyd and Suzanne Clarke (centre), and Police commissioner Katarina Carroll (right) at the vigil
A police officer speaks during a vigil to remember murdered mother. Thousands of mourners attended the event
Dressed in pink – Hannah’s favourite colour – Nat and his father Lloyd Clarke, thanked the crowd for their support.
‘We would have felt lost without all your support. I don’t know how we can repay such kindness,’ the distraught father said.
He described the past week as the ‘hardest of their life’.
‘We may not know you all, but you embraced our family when our whole world collapsed and for that we are genuinely grateful,’ he said.
‘While dealing with this truly difficult time, my family and I are forever thankful to our neighbours and those who were first on the scene who tried to desperately help Hannah and the children.
‘You selflessly and without hesitation did what you could to save them. I don’t know how we can repay such kindness, other than to say we will be eternally grateful.
‘You have restored out faith that there are many good and decent people in the world.’
Hannah’s injuries were so severe, the only part that wasn’t horrifically burnt was the sole of her foot
Community members laid flowers by crosses bearing the names of Hannah and her children at the vigil
Mr Clarke spoke about his pride over everything his daughter managed to achieve before her life was cut short.
He also reflected on the joy his three grandchildren brought to his life.
The family’s charity is named Small Steps for Hannah as the only part of her body that wasn’t horrifically burned was the sole of her foot.
Sergeant David Beard shared her dreams of becoming a police officer at the vigil at Whites Hill State College in Camp Hill – just blocks away from the murder scene.
Hannah spoke about her plans at a Police Citizens Youth Club while visiting a friend the day before she burned to death.
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said Hannah’s courage and heroism were the makings of an excellent officer.
‘Right through to her passing, Hannah showed amazing courage and heroism, ensuring that she gave our police and emergency services at the scene a detailed statement of the horrific events that unfolded, leading to the death of her three children and ultimately herself,’ she said.
- For 24/7 confidential support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14
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:
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.