On February 19, 2020, a quiet residential street in Brisbane, Australia was a scene of true horror. Former rugby player Rowan Baxter allegedly lit his estranged wife’s SUV on fire with her in it and their three children sitting in the backseat, right before taking his own life. As the investigation of the five deaths is still ongoing, there are a lot of unanswered questions floating around. Who is Rowan Baxter and what led him to allegedly commit this horrible act? Keep reading our Rowan Baxter wiki to find out everything we know so far.
Who Is Rowan Baxter?
Rowan Baxter was born in 1978 in New Zealand. Baxter was raised in Tauranga, a harborside city located in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island. He attended Tauranga Boys College.
|About Rowan Baxter|
|Spouse||Hannah Baxter (nee Clarke) 11 years|
|Children||Isaiah Jesse Baxter, Aaliyah Baxter, Laianah Baxter, Trey Baxter|
He was brought up by his father, Charlie Baxter. According to Rowan’s estranged cousin, Alana Hampson, it was a violent, misogynistic upbringing. Rowan has a brother named Charles Baxter, also a former rugby player, and he may have had a younger brother who died as an infant. Nothing’s publicly known about his mother at this time.
Charles played for the Bay of Plenty Steamers in New Zealand in the position of wing. He also represented his home country at the international level from 2003 to 2007.
Athletic since he was young, Rowan Baxter played rugby for the Otahuhu-Ellerslie Leopards (2004) and the Mount Albert Lions (2004-2006), as part of the Auckland Rugby League, in New Zealand. The Mt. Albert Lions won the Bartercard Cup final in 2005.
In 2005, Baxter trained on a national level with the New Zealand Warriors. He was selected to participate in a pre-season National Rugby League (NRL) with the team, but his rugby career didn’t really take off after that.
When rugby wasn’t panning out, Baxter started working as a fitness coach as well as an instructor and trainer for the NRL. His work eventually took him to Australia, where he met his future wife, Hannah Baxter (nee Clarke).
When Rowan Baxter and Hannah Clarke first met, she was a successful athlete and a professional trampoliner. She was also working as a gymnastics coach.
After a few years of dating, Baxter and his wife were married in 2012 in New South Wales, Australia.
The couple had three children together: Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey.
Rowan Baxter also has a son from a previous marriage: Isaiah Jesse Baxter, 22.
In 2013, Rowan and Hannah went into business together, opening and managing a gym called Integr8 in Capalaba, a suburb of Brisbane, Australia. In addition to regular workouts, the couple’s gym focused on crossfit and training rugby players and other athletes.
Integr8’s website homepage features the following mission statement right below a short video of the couple promising to help their patrons meet their personal fitness goals:
“We are on a mission to help people achieve their health and fitness goals through challenging strength, mobility and function! Start your journey with a strong supportive community of members that encourage each other through every work out.”
However, despite their children and professional partnership, the couple separated in 2019.
Rowan Baxter: An Alleged Abuser
The couple’s neighbors claim that up until Hannah Baxter moved out of the house towards the end of 2019, everything seemed perfectly normal between her and Rowan Baxter.
However, over the course of their tumultuous 11-year relationship, family services was reportedly contacted several times regarding domestic disputes between the couple.
To those who knew the couple well, the separation and subsequent pending child custody suit were long overdue.
In fact, Hannah’s parents, Sue and Lloyd Clarke, and her estranged brother, Nathaniel Clarke, had been trying for the better part of a decade to get her and the kids away from Baxter to protect them from his controlling and emotionally and physically abusive ways.
Hannah confided in her close friend, Manja Whaley, who worked in the domestic violence sector for over a decade, telling her about her relationship with Rowan.
“I worked in domestic violence,” Whaley said. “So when she first confided in me we spoke about the violence and for such a long time she didn’t believe she was in a domestic violence relationship. It hadn’t crossed her mind, because as she said to me, her words, ‘he didn’t hit me.’”
Whaley went on to say that she and Hannah spoke more about “the emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse” in her marriage.
Whaley alleges that Rowan would constantly check Hannah’s social media accounts and also that if she refused to have sex with him, he’d punish her by forbidding her from doing the things she loved like going to the gym and meeting with clients. He’d also allegedly punish the kids for no reason by forbidding them from playing with their toys.
Below is a video of Rowan play-fighting with his children that has come under social media fire.
Rowan is said to have constantly accused Hannah of cheating on him or “being flirtatious” whenever he saw her messaging other men on Facebook, even when they were people he knew through the gym. She wasn’t “allowed” to wear shorts that were too short while working out in case they attracted other men.
However, according to Rowan Baxter’s cousin, Sandra Taylor, he was the one being unfaithful, allegedly with multiple women.
Hannah Baxter Tried to Leave
That pivotal conversation with her close friend was the tipping point in convincing Hannah Baxter that she needed to take the kids and leave Rowan Baxter, which she finally did in November 2019.
She moved in with her parents in the Camp Hill suburb of Brisbane. Meanwhile, she and Rowan worked out legal custody arrangements surrounding their children and the terms of their separation.
The initial agreement was that Rowan would only be permitted to see the kids on weekends.
Despite this, there was always tension between the couple during pickups and drop-offs. There’s also the alleged instance of Rowan abducting one of the couple’s daughters on Boxing Day of this year, keeping her at a friend’s place in Pottsville for four days.
According to his neighbors, Rowan Baxter effectively became a recluse after the separation, rarely making any public appearances in the past few months. Neighbors also claim that he’d left his laundry out on the clotheslines for over two months and that his kids’ toys were strewn all over the front yard.
After years of conflict, Hannah Baxter’s family members were relieved when she finally made the decision to leave her husband for good. They claimed that he had serious anger management and control issues for years. And, although they’re understandably distraught by how the situation escalated into a deadly outcome, they’re not surprised.
During one of the court-mandated child pickups, three weeks prior to the alleged murder-suicide, Rowan and Hannah got into an argument. When she turned to walk away from him, he grabbed her by the wrist and twisted her arm so hard that her upper arm was strained.
Rowan was subsequently charged with assault.
“We always had misgivings about him,” said Sue Clarke. “He was always controlling, he ruined her relationship with everyone, even tried to get her away from us.”
What Happened on February 19, 2020
Note that details of the case are not confirmed, as the investigation is still in its infancy.
According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, however, statistics for crimes against women in Australia are staggering.
On average, approximately one woman is murdered by a former or current spouse in Australia every week. Many blame insufficient resources and lack of help lines for this fact.
In this case, Hannah Baxter had previously gone to authorities to report her husband’s behavior, but very little was done to legally protect her and her children. Although, she was able to obtain a restraining order, Rowan Baxter violated it multiple times.
In fact, Rowan was scheduled to make a court appearance on April 8, 2020 after breaching the terms of the restraining order.
On the morning of Wednesday, February 19, 2020, at around 8:30 a.m. local time, Queensland police responded to an unusual call regarding a vehicle fire on a quiet residential street in Camp Hill.
Hannah had loaded the kids into the car to take them to school, when Rowan showed up out of the blue. He allegedly started dousing the entire vehicle, including his kids and estranged wife, with gasoline that he’d purchased earlier that morning from a nearby gas station.
It’s alleged that Rowan then lit the car and its occupants on fire.
Next, he then allegedly managed to reach inside the car, grabbed a knife, and began repeatedly stabbing himself. Rowan Baxter, 42, died on the scene from self-inflicted stab wounds.
The children, six-year-old Aaliyah, four-year-old Laianah, and three-year-old Trey, died in the car fire.
When neighbors witnessed the horrific events right before their very eyes, they were brave enough to intervene. Unfortunately, the vehicle blaze was so large that getting to the kids proved impossible. Hannah’s SUV was so badly damaged by that point, neighbors couldn’t even identify what kind of car it was.
However, Hannah managed to jump out of the vehicle, calling for help. “He’s covered me in petrol,” she yelled.
One of her neighbors, Michael Zemek, was outside washing his car when the whole ordeal began.
Quickly springing into action, Zemek heroically put his own life at risk to help Hannah put out the flames that engulfed her entire body. He helped her get down to the ground and instructed her to roll around in an attempt to extinguish the flames on her clothes and body.
Zemek, who suffered a few serious burns, is currently in hospital receiving treatment.
Andrew Sinclair, another neighbor who was home at the time of the incident, ran out and started spraying water on Hannah with his garden hose to try to extinguish the flames.
Sinclair says the sight of the woman burning up before him is one that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
“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,” Sinclair said.
When the authorities arrived on the scene, they blocked off the strip of road where the incident occurred. Fire brigades worked to extinguish the vehicle fire and treat the wounded on the scene.
Hannah Baxter, 31, was rushed to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in critical condition. Hannah had burns over 97% of her body. She succumbed to her injuries that evening.
The Aftermath of Domestic Violence
Rowan Baxter’s surviving child, Isaiah Baxter, reached out to his stepmother Hannah Baxter’s family after the horrific incident.
Isaiah sent a message to Hannah’s brother Nathanial Clarke: “We shared a similar bond, as we both suffered years of domestic abuse and torment at the hands of Rowan. His appalling parenting caused irreversible damage to my mental health.”
Sue and Lloyd Clarke, Hannah’s parents, who’d done everything in their power to protect their daughter and grandchildren from Rowan Baxter, were extremely dumbfounded and distraught at the news of the attack and the death of their daughter and young grandchildren. They couldn’t fathom how he’d managed to get so close to her.
In addition to the restraining order Hannah had filed in early 2019, her parents had also installed surveillance cameras all over the perimeter of their home. Yet, Rowan still somehow managed to go unnoticed on Wednesday morning, hiding in the bushes prior to ambushing his estranged wife’s vehicle.
Hannah’s parents believe that Rowan was stalking and keeping tabs on their daughter by tracking her phone. She had to constantly change her password so that he wouldn’t be able to track her. She also sought the services of a business offering protection assistance to domestic violence victims.
On February 23, 2020, a vigil was held at Bill Hewitt Reserve in Camp Hill to memorialize Hannah Clarke-Baxter and her three children, Aaliyah, Laianah, and Trey. Hannah’s parents, other family, law enforcement, friends, and many community members were in attendance. Rowan Baxter wasn’t memorialized, for obvious reasons.
In memory of his murdered daughter and grandchildren, Lloyd Clarke is working with the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Trust in Brisbane to establish a charity to assist victims of domestic violence: Small Steps 4 Hannah.