Detective stood aside from murder investigation over DV comments
A senior Queensland detective has been stood aside from the investigation into the murders of a Brisbane mother and her three children over comments he made about domestic violence within the family.
Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said police needed to keep an "open mind" as to whether the deaths of Hannah Clarke – also known as Hannah Baxter - and her children were a case of a "husband being driven too far by issues" or a woman and children suffering extreme domestic violence.
Ms Clarke, 31, and her children, Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3, were killed when Rowan Baxter allegedly poured petrol on his family and set them alight at Camp Hill in Brisbane on Wednesday.
Baxter died on the footpath from self-inflicted wounds.
"Our job as investigators is to keep a completely open mind," Det. Insp. Thompson told media in a 13-minute press conference yesterday.
He noted the outpouring of anger and grief on social media following the deaths and urged anyone with information about the family dynamic to come forward.
"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?"
The comments have been condemned as victim blaming by campaigners including Betty Taylor from the Red Rose Foundation and Angela Lynch, the head of the Women's Legal Service Queensland.
Queensland's Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll apologised today for Det. Insp. Thompson's comments and said she had asked for the respected detective to stand aside.
"Our officers are committed to addressing the scourge of domestic and family violence, and particularly focused on supporting victims," Commissioner Carroll said.
"I have spoken to Detective Inspector Mark Thompson who was very upset about the situation.
"To ensure public confidence I have asked Detective Inspector Thompson to step aside from the investigation."
Commissioner Carroll earlier told the ABC the detective was distressed by his comments.
"He is distraught and he is gutted about the way he said it and what was said," she said.
"He is a man who has protected the Queensland community all his life and has worked endless hours, and when he looks back he cannot believe the way he has phrased that."
Police have confirmed they had received reports of domestic violence within the family over several months before the attack.
A court had also granted at least one domestic violence order relating to the couple.
A close friend of Ms Clarke said the Brisbane mother had endured threats, manipulation and sexual abuse from her husband in the months before the murders.
Manja Whaley told Today that Baxter used emotionally abusive and controlling tactics, kept a watch on her social media and regularly threatened to punish her and her children.
"For such a long time she didn't believe she was in a DV relationship. It hadn't crossed her mind, because as she said to me (in) her words, 'he didn't hit me'," Ms Whaley, who has worked in the domestic violence sector, said.
"I then started unpacking with her the emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, and she had experienced all of those.
"And some of the things that she would explain was this excessive control of Rowan, the sexual abuse daily, and if she wasn't to have sex with him, he would punish not only her but also the children."
Reported with AAP.
Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyond blue on 1300 22 4636.
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.
National Domestic Violence Service: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you are in immediate danger call triple zero (000).