Car-fire murders: Failed rugby player envied athlete wife's fitness and was a 'master manipulator'

She won a gold medal in trampoline and defeated him at CrossFit

                            Car-fire murders: Failed rugby player envied athlete wife's fitness and was a 'master manipulator'
(Getty Images)

The parents of a woman who, along with her children, was burned alive by her estranged husband have revealed that he was a master manipulator who had been abusive and controlling throughout their 11-year relationship.

Rowan Charles Baxter, 42, killed his three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, and his wife Hannah Clarke, 31, earlier this week when he doused her white Kia Sportage with petrol and set it on fire while they were still inside.

Later, he ran back to the car, took a knife and fatally stabbed himself before authorities could reach the horrific scene in the then quiet Camp Hill neighborhood in Brisbane's southeast. Clarke had managed to escape the fire but succumbed to her injuries at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital less than 24 hours later.

Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Clarke's parents, Lloyd and Suzanne, revealed that Baxter had been abusive and manipulative throughout their relationship and had always tried to isolate her from her friends and family so he could control her.

"We always had misgivings about him," Suzanne shared. "He was always controlling, he ruined her relationship with everyone, even tried to get her away from us. We'd go down to the beach and if they turned up and saw us there, they would go to another."

She also said Baxter, who never found success as a rugby player despite being signed to the NRL's New Zealand Warriors, had been jealous of her daughter, who was a champion athlete who had won gold medals in trampoline.

"He was jealous of her sporting success and when she beat him in CrossFit. He had a chip on his shoulder because he didn't make it as an NRL player," she said, adding that he "split her apart from her brother" and "wore her down" during their marriage.

Clarke reportedly decided she had had enough in November, when, with the help of her parents, she secretly left Baxter and took their three children with her. Their situation spiraled out of control from there, culminating in this week's horrific quadruple-murder suicide.

Baxter, who was allowed to see the children only on some weekends, is said to have been pushing for 50 percent custody, and in December, kidnapped one of the kids and ran away for four days before police tracked him down. 

Then, three weeks ago, Baxter assaulted Clarke in her front yard by grabbing her wrist and twisting her arm behind her back, hurting her shoulder. He had been forbidden from going near her after the incident but was allowed to return home.

Suzanne said many people bought into Baxter's act that he was the victim because he was good at making them feel he had been "hard done by" in his relationship despite being the abuser.

"Everyone thought they had a great family because he projected this image on social media with all these sweet pictures and saying he couldn't live without her," she said. "It was all a facade."

He was scheduled to go to court again on April 8 but decided to take drastic action against his wife and three children this past Wednesday, February 19. Her parents said they are perplexed about how he managed to get to her despite the domestic violence order.

"We still don't know how he got so close," Suzanne said. "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."

"He had to hurt us because we'd beaten him. He was spiraling and had run out of people to sponge off. Looks like all of a sudden he decided there was only one way out."

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