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Clarke inquest to hear from DV services

Hannah Clarke’s contact with police officers and domestic violence services providers is under the spotlight as the inquest into the deaths of the 31-year-old and her children continues.

It was only when Ms Clarke spoke to police for the first time about estranged husband Rowan Baxter on December 6, 2019, she realised she was in a domestic violence relationship, the inquest has been told.

She talked then to Senior Constable Kirsten Kent, but did not want to get a domestic violence order against estranged husband Rowan Baxter at that stage.

In footage played to the Coroners Court sitting in Brisbane on Monday, Ms Clarke told officers she feared getting an order would antagonise her situation.

Baxter had taken one of their children after the family met at a Brisbane park on Boxing Day 2019.

Snr Const Erba, who testified at the inquest, told Ms Clarke that without any family orders there was not much police could do, although they would speak to Baxter to try to resolve the situation.

“Because he’s the biological father of the child, we can’t go and just seize the child,” he said.

The girl was returned to her mother two days later after police intervened, and a protection order was put in place.

This was followed by a temporary domestic violence order that Baxter breached on January 31, when he grabbed Ms Clarke’s wrist during an altercation while dropping their son off at the home of Ms Clarke’s parents.

It frightened Ms Clarke more than she let on, according to text messages read to the inquest.

“I know given the opportunity he wouldn’t hesitate to kill me, I can see the look in his eyes,” Ms Clarke wrote to Snr Const Kent.

Ms Clarke also told the officer that Baxter was “so not right in the head”.

In response to Ms Clarke fearing for her life, Snr Const Kent said: “Don’t think like that, you have to be aware but not terrified.”

Asked whether she appreciated how serious Ms Clarke’s situation was, the officer told the inquest: “I’m still not sure what further action I could have done at that point.”

Ms Clarke and Baxter were both referred to domestic violence services during the weeks before the fatal attack.

The inquest into the deaths of Ms Clarke, her children- Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three – and Baxter, who torched the family in a car on a suburban Brisbane street aims to consider what could be done differently to avoid a similar tragedy.

Ms Clarke was leaving her parents’ home in Camp Hill to take her children to school when Baxter got into the car, poured fuel inside and set it alight on February 19, 2020.

Baxter, 42, then stabbed himself with a knife, dying nearby.

Ms Clarke died later the same day in hospital.

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