Australia has been under the spell of a family drama since this morning. Rowan Baxter, a former rugby pro, killed his wife and three children by setting fire to his family’s car. Then he robbed himself of life.
Prime Minister Scott Morisson was shocked by the events. “My heart goes out to the families and community going through this tragic time and the emergency responders confronting what would be a shattering scene.”
The 42-year-old Baxter is a former player of the New Zealand Warriors who played for years at a high level in the National Rugby League, the best division for rugby teams from Australia and New Zealand. According to international media, he was responsible for the death of his family, and he ended his life after his deed. The Australian threw the car in which his family sat with gasoline and then set it on fire. Then he killed himself with knife stabs.
The police confirmed that she was called for a car fire this morning and that she found the bodies of three children aged three, four, and six years on the spot. The children’s mother, Hannah Baxter, was still alive and was rushed to the hospital. There she later died of her injuries.
“This is the worst thing”
ABC Australia reports based on police sources that the woman had jumped out of the car and shouted that Baxter had poured gas over her. Mark Thompson, a police detective, did not want to confirm that but reacted with great concern afterward. “I’ve seen a lot of horrible things in my career, but this was one of the worst things I’ve done.”
Rowan Baxter and his wife were acquaintances in the Australian sports world and together ran a fitness company based in Brisbane. After his career, Baxter worked as a fitness coach for various sports clubs throughout the country. The couple was reportedly divorced at the end of last year but in recent months they have been intensively involved in arranging custody of the children.
The sports world reacted in horror to the family tragedy. ‘Hannah Baxter and her three young children died today in the most despicable way,’ wrote former Olympic cyclist Tracy Gaudry. They should have been safe. Let’s mourn lost lives and think of their family and friends. Australian poet Rob Scott added: ‘Another week in which a man destroys his wife and family. Australia, we need to talk.’
The deaths fall at a time with an ever-persistent debate about high-profile murders and increasing domestic violence in Australia. According to White Ribbon Australia, an advocacy organization that promotes women’s safety, an average of one woman per week is murdered in Australia by a current or former male partner.
Torn apart by grief, Hannah Baxter’s sister-in-law started a collection on Facebook for the funeral expenses. ‘As you probably know, my sister-in-law and my nieces and nephew lost their lives because of a disgusting person they called their father. Anyone who knew Hannah or even met her once knows what a beautiful soul she was. Her children were her life.’
According to the sister-in-law, Hannah’s parents have repeatedly tried unsuccessfully to “let their daughter escape from the monster.”