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“The Truth Needs To Be Told”, Hannah Clarke’s Friend Pens Powerful Letter

"Your voice needs to be heard, your story be told when your voice has been taken away..."

When Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, were murdered by Rowan Baxter – the entire country was at a loss for words. According to reports by the ABC, Rowan allegedly set fire to his three children and his estranged wife in their car on Wednesday morning. The three kids aged six, four and three died on the scene in the vehicle in the Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill. Rowan died on the footpath near the car with self-inflicted stab wounds. Hannah died in hospital on Wednesday night. 

But the hard truth is, Hannah is the eighth woman killed by violence in Australia this year, according to Destroy The Joint. Domestic violence is an epidemic in this country, and things need to change. Following the tragedy, friend Manja Whaley penned a powerful letter to make sure Hannah’s voice is heard and her story is told.

Below, read her letter in full: 

To the most courageous woman I know, Hannah and her three beautiful children Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.

I’m writing this letter because I feel strongly that your voice needs to be heard, your story be told when your voice has been taken away….

The truth needs to be told; “the decision made yesterday by Rowan to take your life and that of your three children results of a belief system that you needed to be punished for leaving the relationship. This was not an act as a result of mental health issues or financial problems, this was a premeditated, deliberate decision to end your life and that of your beautiful babies.”

We met each other at the start of September 2019, I joined your gym and took my three young children with me at the 9.30am classes. Our children were the same ages and got along instantly, you made us feel welcome and part of your Crossfit family. I remember one day not long after meeting you, walking into the gym in tears as we were struggling with my son’s sleep for months and I was feeling very low… You hugged me tight whilst I cried, you gave me so much comfort as a mother of three who knew what this was like. That’s who you were; warm, caring and someone that anyone would feel instantly comfortable with to show their vulnerable side.
Over the next few months our girls became closer and asked for play dates. When you took Laianah to hospital after a gazebo hit her on the weekend and she was complaining of being in pain, you sent me a photo of her in hospital. Thankfully she was ok… The caring mother that you were followed her gut instinct always… We started to develop a friendship and I felt a connection to you like my kids did to yours… We never ended up having that playdate and I feel robbed of a beautiful friendship for myself and my children…

Just before Christmas there was an announcement made that the gym was closing down, I reached out to you and you told me you left Rowan on the 5th of December 2019. You confided in me about the Family Violence you had experienced for the past 10 years… We had previously spoken about my role as a worker for a Domestic Violence service and you told me “I knew when I met you, I met you for a reason”. I am sorry that I couldn’t do more for you whilst you were going through this horrific ordeal, but I do believe we met for a reason: for me to be your voice when your voice has been taken away from you…

At first you were confused and told me that you had never thought of being in a Domestic Violent relationship as you explained “he never hit me”. We talked about the different types of violence including; financial abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and you experienced all of them… I asked you if he had ever threatened to kill you or the children and you told me he had not but there was one thing he had said, really matter of fact, when you first got together 10 years ago and that was that “he had told his ex-partner with whom he had a child, that if she was to leave him he would take the child and end his own life and that of the child”. He never did but you told me that this comment has always stuck in your mind….. Just after Christmas you had to take the necessary steps to keep your children safe after their father took Laianah on Boxing Day of 2019 from the park where you had met him so he could spend time with the children. You told me he picked Laianah up and started walking away, you asked him what he was doing and told him that your car was the other way, all whilst Aaliyah was distressed crying for her father to put Laianah down. Without any disregard of the emotional damage to the children for taking Laianah away from her mother and her siblings, he proceeded to walk to the car and told you “I told you, this is your fault”. This is the act of a man who believed he owned his children and wife, that they were objects to be controlled…. This is not love, this is coercive control; the act of threats, intimidation, assault and humiliation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim… In this case to frighten his own children and wife… He is NOT the victim.

And the nation is confused…: I see questions circulating the internet with how could such a seemingly loving father do such a thing… “Was he really like this”? “His Facebook posts said he loved his children”? “He really loved his children”…. And this is the thing….PERCEPTION IS POWER; the more he convinced the public of the love for his children and you the more he was able to exercise his coercive control by isolating you and manipulating others into perceiving him as being a good partner.

But I Hannah, I SEE YOU and I hope the rest of the world will too for the courageous woman you are!

May you rest in love and peace with your beautiful babies and shine bright my beautiful friend.

To support the family and honour Hannah, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey, please donate here

If you or someone you know needs help contact the Australian Helpline 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

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