Hannah Clarke’s parents have shared how her ex-husband and killer Rowan Baxter showed patterns of abuse, manipulation and control throughout their 11-year relationship.
“He was always controlling, he ruined her relationship with everyone, even tried to get her away from us,” mother Suzanne Clarke told the Daily Mail. “We always had misgivings about him.”
“We’d go down to the coast and if they turned up and saw us there, they would go to another beach.”
In a Facebook post, her father Lloyd Clarke said that Baxter “only cared about himself.”
“He might have said he cared and loved his children, but I know it was always about him coming first,” he wrote.
The couple said that Baxter was also jealous of Clarke’s sporting success. Clarke, a trampolining gymnastics gold medalist, regularly outpaced Baxter in CrossFit and was also more qualified as a trainer than him.
“He had a chip on his shoulder because he didn’t make it as an NRL player,” Suzanne Clarke said.
“‘He had to win at all costs, being a sportsman and a personal trainer and all that,” her father added.
The couple also explained how Baxter had tried to drag Clarke away from her family.
“Rowan didn’t like that he couldn’t control Hannah with us and her brother because we saw right through him,” Lloyd Clarke said.
“Over the 11 years of marriage he wore her down. He split her apart from her brother. Since we got her out they’ve reconnected and had a great relationship.
“She had to get the kids and just go without saying anything, because he was such a control freak and would get into her head space and she would give in.
“He thought he was hard done by and wanted 50% of custody and we knew that couldn’t work, the guy didn’t work, he couldn’t support his own family. It started getting ugly.”
Her mother added: “Everything got worse after she left as he couldn’t control the situation anymore.”
The couple, like police and neighbors, are still looking for answers as to how the killing occurred.
Baxter, who had been estranged from Clarke and their three children, allegedly set Clarke’s car on fire on their way to school. Clarke managed to escape the vehicle but died from burns on the footpath.
The children were unable to escape the burning car. When neighbours tried to help, Baxter fought them off with a knife before taking his own life.
“He’s obviously ambushed her somehow, I’m sure she would not have stopped for him, she would be more likely to try to run over him,” Lloyd Clarke said.
“He had to hurt us because we’d beaten him. He was spiralling and had run out of people to sponge off. Looks like all of a sudden he decided there was only one way out.”
They also detailed previous incidents in the lead-up to the killing, including when Baxter “kidnapped” the children on Boxing Day and tracked Clarke’s phone.
Suzanne Clarke stressed that Baxter’s abuse of her daughter — and his prior outward image as a loving husband and father — stemmed from his habit of controlling and manipulating people.
“He was on social media every night [making himself look like a family man] so Hannah got a lot of trolls sending her nasty thing, but they didn’t know the story,” she said.
“Rowan was very good at manipulating people into doing what he wanted, he could put the tears on in a pinch and make you feel sorry for him.”
Help is available.
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Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online.
Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.