How Rowan Baxter ambushed family

Murderer Rowan Baxter ambushed his estranged wife and held a knife to her throat inside her car before he lit a match and burned his family to death, according to reports.

But not before Hannah Clarke, 31, made a final bid to save her three young children.

Ms Clarke and Aaliyah, six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, burned to death after Baxter, 42, set the Kia Sportage on fire on Wednesday morning.

Until now, it hasn’t been clear how Baxter – who was under a restraining order when he committed the brutal acts – managed to get into Ms Clarke’s car with a jerry can of petrol and set them alight.

Her shattered father Lloyd Clarke has pieced together the horrific timeline of events that led to the tragic loss of four lives and Baxter’s suicide, the Daily Mail reports.

According to the site, despite suffering burns to 97 per cent of her body, Ms Clarke reportedly managed to give police at the scene a detailed statement about how the attack unfolded as she went to take the children to school from her parents’ home in Camp Hill.

“Rowan must have been lurking somewhere close, either hidden around the side of the house or in the neighbour’s driveway,” Mr Clarke told the outlet.

“His car was found down the street, this was definitely premeditated.”

Ms Clarke put the children into the car and walked to the back seat to buckle Trey’s seatbelt as the girls could do their own.

“He was very quick, being an ex-athlete. So as she’s doing that, he’s run into the passenger seat and held a knife to her throat and told her to drive,’ Mr Clarke said.

“She got down to the corner here, turned left, and saw a neighbour washing his car and drove towards him to get help.”

According to witnesses, Ms Clarke stopped the car next to Michael Zemek, and yelled “he’s poured petrol on me”. Baxter immediately lit the fire while he was still inside the car, the Daily Mail reports.

“When he gets trapped in a corner, he has no empathy so he would have just gone ‘’OK, that’s it, light it, boom, gone’,” Mr Clarke said.

“In a way I hope he poured it (the petrol) on the girls because that would have been quicker.”

Moments later, Ms Clarke jumped out of the car as her skin melted off her body. Mr Zemek tried to help by dropping to the ground and rolling then extinguishing the flames with his garden hose.

Ms Clarke died from her injuries in hospital a few hours later. Mr Zemek was treated for minor burns to his upper body and face.

Baxter was declared dead on site after emergency crews attempted to revive him.

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In early January, a Brisbane magistrate granted the police application for a domestic violence order (DVO) to protect Ms Clarke and their children, 7 News reports.

Then, earlier this month, Baxter allegedly breached the DVO by contacting Ms Clarke.

QLD Police responded to the incident by serving Baxter with a Notice To Appear for the breach and he was due to face court in March.

“I can confirm that Queensland police have engaged with both Hannah and her estranged husband in relation to domestic violence issues,” Brisbane Detective Inspector Mark Thompson told a media conference on Thursday.

Relatives say Baxter was stalking her every move and knew that Ms Clarke was a creature of habit who followed a regular morning routine. On Wednesday at about 6.30am, just like every other day, she texted her coffee order to Blackbird Espresso, a few minutes drive from her parents house, The Australian reports.

“It was just another day for her,” barista Helene Nguyen told the paper.

Mr Baxter reportedly purchased a jerry can of fuel from a nearby petrol station which he used to ignite the fire.

Another resident dragged Ms Clarke out of the car as she screamed: “he’s poured petrol on me” but she died in hospital hours later.

The witness told The Australian that Ms Clarke was “rolling on the footpath in flames”. Another described seeing skin “peeling off her (with) … bits hanging off”, according to The Courier Mail.

Neighbour Aaron Snell told the newspaper that Mr Baxter tried to stop bystanders from extinguishing the flames.

“He was protesting to stop (us) putting it out,” Mr Snell said.

“He was so angry and just going absolutely crazy.

“It appeared like he wanted it to burn.”

He said Mr Baxter was in “all manner of states” and jumped into the flaming car to grab a knife while neighbours tried to help.

Ms Clarke and her three children had been staying with her parents in Camp Hill after leaving her husband late last year.

Family friend Brian Cavanagh described the incident as “beyond comprehension”.

“I couldn’t figure out how come Hannah was in the car with him,” he said.

It is understood Mr Baxter, a former New Zealand Warriors player, was in a custody battle with Ms Clarke, according to The Courier-Mail.

Earlier, the slain mother’s sister-in-law Stacey Roberts said Ms Clarke’s parents had “exhausted themselves” trying to “help Hannah escape this monster” and asked for donations to help cover funeral costs via a fundraiser.

“As you may be aware my beautiful sister in-law and my nieces and nephew had their lives taken by a disgusting human being they called their father,” Ms Roberts wrote on the fundraising page, which had raised more than $88,000 as of Thursday night.

“For all those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was, her children were her life.

“All she ever wanted was happiness. Her children were only a reflection of her. Gorgeous, happy kids who held a massive piece in my heart and I’m sure many others because that’s exactly what they were like.

“We will miss them all more than anything.”

Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said it was too early to comment on how the fire started.

“How the fire actually occurred has not been ascertained at the moment, so for us to call it a murder-suicide or a tragic accident, it’s inappropriate at this stage,” he said.

“I’ve seen some horrific scenes – this is up there with some of the best of them.

“It’s a terrible thing to be presented with.”

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