Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

In this Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, photo, police attend the scene of a car fire in Brisbane, Australia. Hannah Baxter, 31, and her children Aaliyah, 6, Lainah, 4, and Trey, 3, died after their car was set alight on a street in suburban Brisbane on Wednesday morning. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 20 February 2020

Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was ‘shocked, saddened and devastated’ by the tragedy
  • A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns

SYDNEY: An ex-rugby league player is suspected of murdering his three children and estranged wife in Australia by burning them alive inside their car, in what police described as one of the most horrific incidents they have encountered.

Officers said 31-year-old Hannah Clarke died in a Brisbane hospital on Wednesday just hours after her three children aged three, four and six were found dead in the car on a suburban street.

Her husband, Rowan Baxter, who also died, allegedly approached the vehicle and doused it with petrol before setting it alight, The Australian newspaper reported.

The paper said Clarke jumped from the burning car and rolled on the ground, saying “he’s poured petrol on me.”

Officials said she was rushed to hospital with severe burns following the “horrific” incident but later succumbed to her injuries.

Baxter, a 42-year-old former rugby league player for the New Zealand Warriors, was believed to be in the burning vehicle but got out and died on a footpath.

Queensland Police detective inspector Mark Thompson said Thursday that Baxter died as a result of burns and a self-inflicted wound.

“Information that’s to hand has led us to believe that the Baxter children and Hannah Clarke were killed and I don’t believe there’s any suspicious circumstances around the death of Rowan Baxter,” he said.

Clarke’s sister-in-law, Stacey Roberts, set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs and support Hannah’s parents, who she said had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster.”

“All those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was. Her children (were) her life,” Roberts posted on Facebook.

The page has so far raised almost Aus$100,000 ($67,000).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the tragedy, which has led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence and it just grieves our hearts terribly today,” he said.

Natasha Stott Despoja, a former senator and chair of anti-violence group Our Watch, called for stronger action to address violence against women in Australia, which she described as a “national emergency.”

“I know people want change, people are angry & sad today,” she tweeted. “How long before we stop this slaughter in our suburbs?“

A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

The emergency responders who attended the scene have been stood down from their duties and will receive support, he added.


UK PM Johnson stable overnight and in good spirits: spokesman

Updated 55 min 41 sec ago

UK PM Johnson stable overnight and in good spirits: spokesman

  • Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputize for him

LONDON: British prime minister Boris Johnson was stable overnight in intensive care after suffering a deterioration of his COVID-19 symptoms and he remains in good spirits, his spokesman said on Tuesday.
The spokesman told reporters the prime minister, who was admitted to hospital on Sunday, was receiving standard oxygen treatment and was breathing without any other assistance. He did not require a mechanical ventilator.
“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation, or non-invasive respiratory support,” the spokesman said.

Johnson was on Monday admitted to intensive care after being hospitalized with coronavirus, with foreign minister Dominic Raab to take over his duties “where necessary”, his Downing Street office said.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” said the Downing Street press release.

“The PM has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab ... to deputize for him where necessary,” it added.

The prime minister was moved in case he needed to use a ventilator, the government added.

 

Johnson was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday with a temperature and a cough after testing positive for coronavirus on March 27, becoming the most high-profile world leader infected with the disease that has spread rapidly across the globe.

The 55-year-old had been self-isolating in his Downing Street flat but on Sunday evening was driven to a nearby state-run hospital on the advice of his doctor.

Officials said it was a “precautionary step” but questions had earlier been raised about whether the Conservative leader could still run the country. The British government was criticized for initially refusing to follow other European countries in requiring people to stay home as the virus spread.

And Johnson himself said in early March that he was still shaking hands with people.

But two weeks ago, he ordered a nationwide lockdown and Britain is now in the grip of a serious outbreak. Over 50,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths have been recorded so far, with a latest daily toll of 439.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, have both been infected with coronavirus, although they have since recovered.

In response to the crisis, Queen Elizabeth II made a rare public address on Sunday night, evoking the spirit of World War II and urging Britons to stay united.

“We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again,” she said.

Housing minister Robert Jenrick told BBC television that the prime minister had been working “phenomenally hard” during the crisis, adding that he would be finding it “very frustrating” to be ill.

Johnson is not known to have any underlying health issues, although he has struggled with his weight, but some questioned if he should have taken more time off.

Junior health minister Nadine Dorries, who also had coronavirus but has recovered, added: “Many with #COVID19 are felled by fatigue/temperature and use isolation to sleep and recover.

“Boris has risked his health and worked every day on our behalf to lead the battle against this vile virus.”

Sarah Vine, a newspaper columnist and wife of senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, added: “Boris has worked non-stop throughout his illness -- and now we see the result.”

US President Donald Trump said he was “hopeful and sure” Johnson would recover, calling the prime minister “a friend of mine” and a “great leader”.

Johnson’s pregnant partner, Carrie Symonds, moved out of Downing Street after some staff fell ill. But she said on Saturday she had just spent a week in bed with symptoms, although she has not been tested.

Johnson’s spokesman would not confirm a report in The Times newspaper reported that the prime minister had been given oxygen treatment.

“Doctors will be monitoring important vital signs such as oxygen saturations,” said Rupert Beale, group leader at the cell biology of infection laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute.

He said they would also check Johnson’s blood to “see what the immune response to the virus looks like, and to assess liver and kidney function”, and may also perform an electrocardiogram to check the heart.