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US News Brisbane car fire detective taken off the case after suggesting killer Rowan Baxter may have been 'driven too far'

20:15  21 february  2020
20:15  21 february  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

Ex-Warriors player Rowan Baxter, his wife Hannah and their three children dead after car fire on street in Camp Hill, Brisbane

  Ex-Warriors player Rowan Baxter, his wife Hannah and their three children dead after car fire on street in Camp Hill, Brisbane Ex-Warriors player Rowan Baxter, his wife Hannah and their three children — all aged under 10 — die after the car they were in was allegedly set on fire in Raven Street, Camp Hill in Brisbane.Rowan Baxter, 42, and his three children died at the scene.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll says the decision to stand down the detective who was leading the investigation into Wednesday's murder-suicide at Camp Hill "had to be made".

On Thursday afternoon, at a press conference about the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children Laianah, Aaliyah and Trey in a car fire, Detective Inspector Mark Thompson suggested killer Rowan Baxter may have been "driven too far".

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Commissioner Carroll said Inspector Thompson volunteered to stand aside when she asked him to remove himself from the investigation via phone call this morning.

"And I totally agreed with that," she said.

"In fairness to Mark and myself and the agency, we want to remove the noise and concentrate on the issue.

"There is a mother and three children who have been murdered and I want to concentrate on that."

Speaking on Thursday, Inspector Thompson had stressed that: "Our job as investigators is to keep a completely open mind.

"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 to take, so to speak, in this investigation," he said.

"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 this an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues that he's suffered, by certain circumstances, into committing acts of this form?

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"That's why I want people to come and speak to us. If we are going to build a complete picture as to what has occurred, then we need to need to speak to everyone."

Thompson a 'brilliant investigator', Carroll says

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane earlier, Commissioner Carroll was firm in her criticism of the comments.

"I apologise for what was said and how it was said. Phraseology was completely wrong and the words and way it was said should not have been used," she told the Breakfast program.

"I sincerely apologise to the community and to victims about the way it was put."

Hannah Clarke and Rowan Baxter with their three children. © Facebook Hannah Clarke and Rowan Baxter with their three children.

"I think there is only one way to describe that, and that's victim-blaming at its worst," Betty Taylor from the Red Rose Foundation also told the program.

Commissioner Carroll said Inspector Thompson was "distraught and gutted" after listening back to his own comments.

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"He is a man who has protected Queensland communities all his life and has worked endless hours. And when he looks back, and I know he's listened to it, he cannot believe how he has phrased that," she said.

"He's distraught because he cannot understand how he said it and how it came out.

"All he wanted to say is that he needs to get evidence before the coroner.

"He went on to try and explain that it is abhorrent, unacceptable. He should not have speculated, and should have said, 'This matter has to go to the coroner.'

Commissioner Carroll said Inspector Thompson was an "exceptionally good police officer".

"He is an extraordinarily committed, experienced and brilliant investigator," she said.

"He, like the rest of us, believes that domestic violence is nothing but a scourge on society."

She said she hoped there was no long-term damage to Inspector Thompson's career.

Prominent anti-violence campaigner Rosie Batty said she was "deeply concerned" by any comments made in defence of Mr Baxter.

"I am also deeply concerned by some commentary from people in authority and the media that have presented the murderer as a loving father," she added.

"A loving parent never considers murder as ever being an option or a solution. No-one is 'driven' to murder, no matter the circumstances or situation that they find themselves in."

DVO against Rowan Baxter 'obviously ineffective'

Commissioner Carroll also acknowledged that the response to domestic violence and domestic violence orders (DVOs) had room for improvement.

Queensland's domestic violence laws have come under scrutiny after it was revealed Mr Baxter, Ms Clarke's estranged husband, had a DVO against him.

Commissioner Carroll was clear police are investigating a murder-suicide. © Facebook Commissioner Carroll was clear police are investigating a murder-suicide.

"DVOs have been effective in many instances, but in some cases like this, obviously ineffective," she said.

"We will go back, as will all other agencies, and this will go to the coroner to look at exactly what happened [and when].

"[Things like] could interventions be done earlier? Could we have prevented this? What do we learn from this? This is the conversation that we need to always have, because we're always getting better at this.

"It just doesn't start at the end of the line. It starts a lot, lot earlier than this.

"It starts in a home. It starts at school. It starts around conversations about equality and respect. I mean, this is the end of the line. The conversation needs to be a lot earlier."

Commissioner Carroll said domestic violence was a complex issue which required the efforts of multiple agencies to address.

"It would appear we need to be having a lot more conversations.

"We get 100,000 occurrences a year and I feel, and I know, that's underreported.

"I do understand the job that police have. I think they have a really difficult job with domestic violence, but we're now talking about not investigating domestic violence, it's now murder-suicide.

"Nothing the victim has done should end her life tragically. Women have a right to walk away from a relationship of any description."

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