Cop’s 'gutted' over killer comments that sparked outrage
An embattled Queensland detective whose comment on the murder of Brisbane mother Hannah Clarke and her children sparked outrage among domestic violence campaigners has been removed from the investigation.
Detective Inspector Mark Thompson sparked outrage online and among domestic violence campaigners with his choice of words at a press conference yesterday, as police updated the public on their investigation into the horrific car fire that killed Ms Clarke, 31, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3.
"Our job as investigators is to keep a completely open mind," Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said today.
"We need to look at every piece of information and, to put it bluntly, there are probably people out there in the community that are deciding which side, so to speak, to take in this investigation.
"Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence, and her and her children perishing at the hands of the husband?
"Or is it an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues that he's suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?"
The reactions came thick and fast on Twitter on Thursday afternoon and into the evening.
Federal Labor MP Brian Mitchell, for Lyons in Tasmania, responded: "Jesus Christ Almighty".
"We don't fumble about like this when terrorists kill - why does family violence bring out the hand-wringers for killers of women and kids?" he said.
Brisbane-based writer Dr Anna Whateley said: "I am genuinely shocked. You cannot drive someone to do what he did."
Keeping an ‘open mind’ about reports the perpetrator was ‘driven too far’. Jesus Christ Almighty. We don’t fumble about like this when terrorists kill - why does family violence bring out the hand-wringers for killers of women and kids? https://t.co/97BubaqptC— Brian Mitchell MP (@BrianMitchellMP) February 20, 2020
The Guardian reported chief executive of the Women's Legal Service Queensland, Angela Lynch, responded that "for police to be buying into that kind of rhetoric is very concerning."
"It's giving legitimacy to what has occurred, it's victim blaming," Ms Lynch said.
"It's saying that she might have caused this through her own actions. It plays into very dangerous ideas in the community around victim blaming and a whole range of myths about the family law system."
Victims' advocate Renee Eaves told the publication the narrative was "the most dangerous thing that exists for victims who doubt themselves" after violence and question responsibility.
The administrator for the Doctors Against Violence Towards Women public page on Facebook said "women who are accused of restricting access, 'driving' their men to the brink, who seek orders against the father of their children, are actually just fiercely protective".
One Twitter user said the comment implied it was "open season on women and kids".
"Just tell the cops you were 'pushed too far'," the horrified man said.
Others said "good grief" and called the comment "disgusting", audacious and victim blaming.
Here are just some of the responses.
The AUDACITY of the Queensland Police to entertain the idea that the vile excuse for a person who MURDERED HIS FAMILY was “driven too far” leaves me speechless. The death of Hannah Clarke is something many women will carry with them from now on. Their response is disgusting.— Chloe (@yikeschloe) February 20, 2020
What is meant by 'a man driven too far' as a potential explanation for murdering a woman and three children?— beverley wang (@beverleywang) February 20, 2020
I am trying to keep an open mind about the QLD police's need to keep an open mind, but that statement is really testing me.#HannahBaxter #HannahClarke
Dear @QldPolice— 🚒Catherine Perry. (@CatPurry9) February 20, 2020
There is no justification for the brutal murder of 3 children in a car fire. No one is "driven to" setting their children alight. Any members of QPS seen not to condemn this evil behaviour will be seen to be excusing it. There is no "open mind" on murder!
In a channel 7 article abt #HannahBaxter + kids police officer Mark Thompson is quoted as saying “is this an instance of a husband being driven too far...”— Summer May Finlay (@SummerMayFinlay) February 20, 2020
That kind of attitude blames the victim. There are NO mitigating circumstances that excuse this! https://t.co/qWtaYLOrDC pic.twitter.com/7I0f7fbJvT
#auspol hope it is not true that Qland police said they had “an open mind” re murderer “was “driven too far” re the murder of 3 little children & their mother. Australia needs to take a long look at it self. Misogyny is like a cancer pervading this country.— Valerie deBritt (@KerryWitch) February 20, 2020
Whoa...back up a bit....Did I just hear @QldPolice say they were investigating if it was a case of a man "driven too far?"— 3GCT (@BarrysChins) February 20, 2020
I'm done. Open season on women and kids, obviously...just tell the cops you were "pushed too far."
"Men being driven too far" Good grief! #thedrum Women are driven too far all the time & we just have to suck it up. We don't turn around and murder our children and burn stab or shoot our partners.— genus Casuarius, a ratite (@BarbaraHFlowers) February 20, 2020
Ms Clarke and her children Aaliyah, aged six, Laianah, four, and Trey, three, all died from burns sustained when Rowan Baxter, 42, set the family car alight on a Camp Hill street on Wednesday morning. Ms Clarke was taken to hospital but succumbed to her injuries around 9pm.
Police said the 42-year-old man was also found dead after the fire with a self-inflicted injury.
Insp Thompson had been asked if "murder-suicide" was the one line of inquiry being pursued.
He was also questioned as to what he meant by the suggestion police were looking "at whether he (Baxter) was driven too far to have done this".
"Is there something you're looking at recently that's occurred between them that may have sparked it?" one reporter asked.
Insp Thompson replied: "Absolutely not. I'm not leaning towards that at all.
"What I was trying to illustrate by my comments were that you do see both in public commentary and in general responses from the community that people will make those allegations.
"Maybe they are scorned members of the community themselves that have had dealings with domestic violence in the past and that's the sort of things that they say in response to an incident like this.
"I am certainly not saying that the Queensland Police Service are taking any view in relation to that at all. We are not doing that. We are keeping an open mind and doing an open investigation which is exactly what we are to do and we are under the direction from the state coroner to do that."
He asked people to come forward and "build a complete and clear picture" for the coroner.
"What I was trying to illustrate is if there are people out there making the comments such as what I've just described, then, please, come forward and substantiate these claims," he said.
"Help us with the information we need to build that picture for the coroner.
"Coronial issues like this have the ability to drive reform amongst issues like domestic and family violence. It is extremely critical people come forward."
Insp Thompson said police had "engaged" with Ms Clarke and Baxter "in relation to domestic violence issues" and both adults had been referred to support services.
He said domestic and family violence "paperwork and applications" put to court were granted.
"The dynamics of a family that are broken and estranged are particularly poignant to this investigation … and very hard to decipher without us being able to put some sort of clarification around what's happened," he said.
"Unfortunately, some of the people that were involved in that are no longer with us and we're unable to speak to them."
Baxter's Facebook profile had been taken down by Thursday after it became a memorial page and was then flooded with comments labelling him "evil" and "putrid scum".