Rowan Baxter posted many times on social media lately about his love for his children.
Rowan and his wife Hannah lived in Brisbane, Australia with their three young children Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey.
Rowan held a job as one of the top fitness coaches in Brisbane and owned a gym with Hannah – he previously played Rugby League for the New Zealand warriors.
In late 2019, the tone of Rowan’s social media posts changed. He spoke about missing his children. The family started to fall apart.
The police were called to a domestic dispute between Rowan and Hannah in January 2020.
On Wednesday February 19, 2020, Rowan did the unthinkable. Details are still emerging but at 8.20am on a suburban street, Rowan poured petrol over the entire family as they sat in their vehicle, a white Kia SUV. He also stabbed himself with a knife.
He then set the car and its occupants alight.
Hannah managed to escape. A witness who lived nearby told The Australian that Hannah was shrieking ‘he’s poured petrol on me’ from the car window. Her flames were extinguished by a neighbor with a garden hose. After she got out of the car, she was heard to scream ‘my children are in the car, save my children!’
Another neighbour, Andrew Sinclair, heard the explosion and came running. He said of Hannah’s injuries: ‘She was standing with her arms out and her palm towards the hose. She looked straight at me, staring. ‘It was a look of pain and shock that will stay with me forever.’
Mr Sinclair likened the burns across her entire body to the famous photo of a burned girl in the Vietnam War.
‘She was dressed in active wear like a typical suburban mum and it was burnt, there was holes in it and her skin was falling off her body,’ he said.
Rowan demanded people stop trying to put out the flames – and insisted they didn’t attempt to pull the children free.
Aaron Snell, a neighbour who witnessed the tragedy, said before Rowan died he shouted at would-be rescuers and told them he wanted his family to die.
‘He was so angry and just going absolutely crazy… he wanted [the car] to burn,’ he told News Corp.
Neighbours said they heard a sound similar to a ‘gas bottle (propane tank) explosion’ early this morning and at least four blasts followed.
‘By that time you couldn’t get near the vehicle, unless you had a proper suit on, you were just no hope,’ the resident told The Australian. ‘The young lady (Hannah) was rolling on the footpath on flames.’
The local fire brigade is less than a kilometre away from the disaster site and the resident said firefighters were at the blaze almost immediately.
Another resident said they heard screams and ran to help.
‘I had people working at my house and we could hear screams and calls for help,’ he told The Courier-Mail.
‘The flames were huge, absolutely insane.
‘We had to stand back because the firefighters were rushing in.’
‘It’s a terrible thing to be presented with.’
Rowan was found dead nearby with a self inflicted stab wound. Witnesses have said that he stabbed himself in the chest.
The tragedy unfolded just metres from the home of Hannah’s parents.
At approximately 8.45pm on February 19, police announced that Hannah Baxter had also died from her injuries.
It has emerged that Rowan, was occasionally allowed to see the children on weekends, but there was always tension, and even one assault, on drop offs and pickups.
‘He kidnapped (one of the kids) on Boxing Day and took her interstate for four days until the police got her back,’ Hannah’s mother, Suzanne Clarke said.
‘He stayed with a mate who was an absolute animal and sent Hannah a disgusting email blaming her for everything.’
The funeral for Hannah and her children was held on March 9, 2020 at the Citipointe Church in Carindale. All four of them were buried in the same white casket.