Friends left Hannah Clarke by the wayside in the weeks before she and her children were murdered, her mum says.
Friends left Hannah Clarke by the wayside in the weeks before she and her children were murdered, her mum says.

‘They never checked’: Hannah’s heartache in her final weeks

When Hannah Clarke made the decision to leave her dangerous marriage, the real estate agency for the home she'd fled took her to court demanding she continue to pay half the rent.

The end of her marriage also cost her friends, with some believing the slurs Rowan Baxter was posting about her on social media.

These were some of the hurdles the courageous mother-of-three faced in the weeks between leaving her marriage and the day her estranged husband murdered them all.

It is problems like these that have joined Hannah's mother Sue Clarke with Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson to give a voice to victims of domestic violence.

Both women have daughters who experienced domestic violence and both now dedicate their time to teaching women and girls about the red flags of controlling and abusive relationships.

Hannah Clarke with her son Trey.
Hannah Clarke with her son Trey.

Hannah and her children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, were murdered in Camp Hill in February after Baxter ambushed them during the morning school run.

Armed with a knife, he got into the passenger seat of Hannah's car before dousing her and the children with petrol and setting them on fire.

Hannah remained conscious long enough to tell police what had happened. She died soon after in hospital.

Their deaths shocked the nation and reinvigorated the conversation around domestic violence.

Sue Clarke hopes her daughter's story can help others, and both she and Ms Robinson are encouraging Queenslanders to decorate their letterboxes with white ribbons for White Ribbon Day on November 20.

Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson with Hannah Clarke’s mother, Sue Clarke. Picture: Liam Kidston.
Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson with Hannah Clarke’s mother, Sue Clarke. Picture: Liam Kidston.

Ms Clarke said a close family friend had warned Hannah that some people would side with Baxter after she finally made the decision to walk away from her marriage.

"As soon as Hannah left, (the family friend) rang and said, `you know, you are going to lose a lot of people you thought were your friends - but they are not your friends'," she said.

"And not a truer word was said.

"She got attacked by people … because of what he put on social media about her.

"She came to me crying, saying `I thought such-and-such was my friend'.

"And some never even checked. They just supported him. You'd think you'd at least say, `oh, this doesn't sound like you' or ask what's happening.

"The poor kid died thinking people had left her."

Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, s and Trey, 3.
Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, s and Trey, 3.

And just two days before Hannah and her children were killed, she finally finished a legal battle with a real estate agency over the payment of rent on the home she'd fled.

"She rang them and spoke to them, had a letter sent to them explaining it and they still did that," Ms Clarke said.

"It was so wrong.

"It was terrible, just horrific, that they did that to her.

"So she went to court and had her name taken off the lease on the Monday - and he killed her on the Wednesday."

Ms Robinson said while progress had been made in recent years around domestic violence awareness, there was still so much to be done.

She said women should be able to access information on repeat domestic violence offenders so they know whether they are entering a relationship with a dangerous person.

And for the cases where a violent partner has no history, teaching people about red flags early is the key.

Aaliyah Laianah and Trey.
Aaliyah Laianah and Trey.

The two women will soon be running information sessions with year 11 and 12 girls - and their mothers - about coercive control.

"We're going to look at the green flags of a healthy relationship and the red flags of a toxic relationship with a focus on coercive control," she said.

She said they will also teach girls how to support friends in unhealthy relationships.

"It's about keeping those lines of communication open," Ms Robinson said.

"For both of our girls, the fact that we had really good relationships with them (meant) we could see what was happening.

"So when they made the decision to leave, and it has to be their decision, we were there and were there to support them when they came home."

White Ribbon Queensland chair Chiu-Hing Chan said domestic violence incidents have tripled during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The purpose of White Ribbon Day this year is to not only speak about change that is needed but to get involved in creating it," he said.

*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636. The Suicide Call Back service is on Call 1300 659 467. 

Originally published as 'They never checked': Hannah's heartache in her final weeks



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