Australian police sparked outrage after they made remarks that were allegedly dismissive of domestic abuse following the murder-suicide of a man, his estranged wife and children.
Former Australian professional rugby player Rowan Baxter allegedly burned his estranged wife Hannah Clarke and their three young children to death Wednesday inside their car in Brisbane. Baxter escaped with burns but later stabbed himself to death, the New York Post reported.
Queensland police confirmed previous domestic and family violence orders had been granted to Clarke against Baxter, and the police had intervened before. A Queensland officer drew an angry response from domestic violence advocates and politicians when he said police would keep an “open mind” about Baxter’s motives, the Guardian reported.
“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, so to speak, to take in this investigation,” policeman Mark Thompson said, according to the Guardian. “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 it an instance of a husband being driven too far by issues he’s suffered by certain circumstances into committing acts of this form?”
Renee Eaves, a victims’ advocate, told the Guardian she couldn’t believe the comments. “A calculated monster has killed a woman and her children in the most abhorrent way anyone could imagine. Even when the worst has occurred, they’re still questioning the woman, and still looking for reasons to justify this man’s behaviour.” (RELATED: Joe Biden Releases Plan To End Violence Against Women Days After Fundraising With Alleged Women Abusers)
Angela Lynch, the chief executive of a Queensland organization that offers free legal help to women suffering from doemstic abuse, also objected to Thompson’s remarks. “It’s giving legitimacy to what has occurred. It’s victim blaming. It’s saying that she might have caused this through her own actions. It plays into very dangerous ideas in the community around victim blaming and a whole range of myths about the family law system,” she told the Guardian.
Members of the Australian Parliament also expressed their disappointment on Twitter, agreeing that the Queensland police’s remarks were “victim blaming.”
Keeping an ‘open mind’ about reports the perpetrator was ‘driven too far’. Jesus Christ Almighty. We don’t fumble about like this when terrorists kill – why does family violence bring out the hand-wringers for killers of women and kids? https://t.co/97BubaqptC
— Brian Mitchell MP (@BrianMitchellMP) February 20, 2020
The most disgraceful comments from a police officer that I’ve ever heard. Hannah and her kids were murdered in an horrific act of family violence. Hang your heads in shame @QldPolice https://t.co/OdlasDsh1G
— James Merlino (@JamesMerlinoMP) February 20, 2020
There are no ‘sides’ in this. There is a woman and three children murdered by someone they should have been able to trust. It’s vital police recognize this. Otherwise how will other women and children get the help they need? https://t.co/jbh8u3hJGu
— Kate Thwaites (@ThwaitesKate) February 20, 2020
After a previous assault, Baxter was prohibited to be within 65 feet of Clarke. Her parents believe Baxter hacked her phone so he could track her, the New York Post reported.