Hannah Clarke’s heartbroken parents have revealed the early warning signs their daughter’s husband displayed before he took the mother-of-three’s life and those of her children in a shocking murder suicide almost six months ago.
Speaking to the Courier Mail’s Q Weekend magazine, Lloyd and Suzanne Clark said they saw “red flags” in Rowan Baxter’s behaviour toward their 31-year-old daughter, but never believed it would culminate in the horrifying killing that shocked Australia in February.
The couple lost their beautiful daughter and three grandchildren – Trey, 3; Laianah, 4; Aaliyah, 6 – when Baxter ambushed them in Hannah’s vehicle, dousing them with petrol and setting the vehicle alight before taking his own life in a cowardly final gesture.
Despite suffering burns to 97% of her body, the brave mother managed to exit the vehicle and was able to tell emergency responders what Baxter had done before later succumbing to her injuries in hospital.
They told Q Weekend they were speaking out as a warning to other victims in the hope that no one else had to suffer in the way Hannah did.
Suzanne said Baxter’s controlling behaviour had been gradual and started with “little things”.
“He took over Hannah’s Facebook, they had to have a joint Facebook account,” she said.
“She wasn’t allowed to wear shorts, she couldn’t walk off the beach in bikinis.”
Suzanne said she dismissed Baxter’s demands as him simply being “a bit of a prude” and says the joint Facebook account made sense as the couple were posting many of the same photos.
But, she says, his behaviour gradually became more possessive.
“He would go through her phone, he would check phone calls. Certain clothes she couldn’t wear. He tried to control everything,” she says.
The parents say they tried to speak to Baxter about his behaviour on numerous occasions.
“We had a few mini-interventions,” says Suzanne.
“We went over there, we tried to talk to him about it.”
Baxter, they say, went from the son-in-law who came over and shared a beer on Friday nights and a Thai takeaway on the weekends, to a monster.
Hannah’s heartbroken Dad says his daughter always put on a brave face and says very few people knew about her struggles at home.
They warned anyone who experienced similar behaviours in a partner to speak up and seek professional help through domestic violence services.
Do you need help? Call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). Lifeline 13 11 14