Flowers at the scene of the car fire to pay respects to Hannah Baxter and her three children who were murdered yesterday. Photographer: Liam Kidston
Flowers at the scene of the car fire to pay respects to Hannah Baxter and her three children who were murdered yesterday. Photographer: Liam Kidston

’THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME’: Haunting tale of Warwick survivor

THE horrific murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children triggered haunting memories for one Warwick woman who hopes the senseless tragedy will serve as a call to action.

When details emerged of a loving mother dragged, screaming and burning, from a torched car in Brisbane, Jane (whose name has been changed for legal reasons) turned to her mother and said, “That could have been me.”

Like Hannah, Jane had three beautiful children she treasured.

And like Hannah, Jane once lived in constant fear of their father.

At just 18 years old Jane fell in love with her ex-husband who, at first, appeared to be “a total angel”.

“He was charming and he lured me in with compliments and gifts,” she said.

“I thought I’d hit the jackpot.”

Within six months, however, red flags began to appear. At first, the anger was misdirected. He would smash windows, throw glasses, or pick a fight with strangers.

But it quickly escalated.

For over a decade Jane turned up to work with broken bones, bruises covering her arms and cuts across her skin.

She yelled for help as fists pummeled her back and watched as her next-door neighbours closed their blinds.

Their response, Jane said, was at the heart of the problems facing victims of domestic violence.

“People don’t want to get involved and you get scared to tell anyone because you think no one will believe you,” she said.

“And even if you do, what if they think it’s all your fault?

“I was constantly being told it was my behaviour that pushed my ex-husband over the edge, that I was creating the situation, and that if I just got the dinner out on time, none of it would have happened.”

Any attempt Jane made to leave was met with threats of violence, first against himself, and afterwards against the children.

The State Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Death Review deputy chairwoman, Associate Professor Kathleen Baird, said some women stayed with violent partners because they feared leaving would “make it even worse’’.

“There is a genuine fear from some women that, when they leave, their partner will track them down,’’ she said.

“Most women who are murdered (are killed) when they leave or are trying to leave.”

“You can only surmise that’s what makes them stay, to try to manage the violence and know where the men are.”

The deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children took the domestic violence death toll to 325 since 2006.

It took the prospect of dying in front of her children for Jane to finally leave.

“I was lying on the floor with my husband standing over me, holding a knife,” she said.

“I was waiting for that knife to fall when I looked up the stairs and saw my son standing there.

“I thought, ‘Oh god, this child is going to see me die. I can’t do that to him’.”

That night Jane walked 6km to a relative’s house, where she finally revealed the true extent of her abuse.

Jane said she would have left far earlier, if only the support had been there.

“If people want to help they just need to start a conversation,” she said.

“Let victims of abuse know you’re there for them and there are options.

“Give them hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, let them know there’s a way to break the cycle, show them that there’s help available.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence CALL 1800 RESPECT.