Senior cop is forced to apologise after making extraordinary comments

‘Victim blaming’ Australian cop is suspended for saying husband might have killed his wife and three children because he was ‘driven too far by issues that he’s suffered’

  • Mark Thompson sparked fury after ‘victim blaming’ Hannah Clarke and children
  • Her husband and suspected killer Rowan Baxter also died in Queensland car fire
  • Detective inspector Thompson has now been removed from the murder probe 

A ‘victim blaming’ Australian detective has been sacked from a murder probe for suggesting that a husband might have killed his wife and three children because he was ‘driven too far’. 

Mark Thompson sparked fury after speculating whether the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children were a case of a ‘husband being driven too far by issues he suffered’. 

Ms Clarke’s husband and suspected killer Rowan Baxter also died after allegedly setting the family car on fire in Brisbane. 

Detective inspector Thompson, who has also described the murder scene as ‘up there as one of the best of them’, has now been taken off the case.   

Thompson’s comments were condemned as victim blaming by domestic violence campaigners including Betty Taylor from the Red Rose Foundation and Angela Lynch, the head of the Women’s Legal Service Queensland. 

Renee Eaves, a victims’ advocate, told The Guardian that suggesting victims may be partially responsible was ‘the most dangerous thing’.

‘If police are now implying that a murdered woman might be at fault, then that to me raises critical questions about whether they took the threat to her safety seriously enough,’ she said.

Ms Clarke, 31, and her children Laianah, four, Aaliyah, six, and Trey, three, were killed when 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, police say.

‘Our job as investigators is to keep a completely open mind,’ Det Insp Thompson told media in a 13-minute press conference on Thursday.

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.

Hannah Clarke ( pictured) along with her children Laianah, 4, Aaliyah, 6, and Trey, 3, (above ) were murdered by their husband and father  Rowan Baxter before he killed himself on Wednesday

Detective Inspector Mark Thompson has been slammed after he said police needed to keep an open mind as to whether the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her children were a case of a ‘husband being driven too far by issues’ or a woman and children suffering extreme domestic violence

‘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?’

On the day of the tragedy, the same detective described the crime scene as among the ‘best’. 

‘I’ve seen some horrific scenes and this is up there with some of the best of them,’ Det Insp Thompson said on Wednesday.

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll apologised for the comments on Friday.

She added the phrasing was wrong and said Thompson was ‘gutted’ about the comments.

‘He is distraught and he is gutted about the way he said it and what was said,’ Commissioner Carroll told the ABC.

‘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.’

She said in a statement: ‘To ensure public confidence I have asked Detective Inspector Thompson to step aside from the investigation.’  

Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll apologised on Friday and said Det Insp Thompson was gutted about the comments

Rowan Baxter (above left) 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, police say

Following the press conference social media users were quick to criticise the officer’s comments. 

‘There is no justification for the brutal murder of three children in a car fire,’ one woman tweeted.

‘No one is ‘driven to’ setting their children alight. Any members of QPS seen not to condemn this evil behaviour will be seen to be excusing it. There is no ‘open mind’ on murder!’

Another said: ‘Just when you thought this act of murder was bad enough… Utter disbelief at the quotes from QPS.’   

Detective Thompson’s comments have been condemned as victim blaming by domestic violence campaigners including Betty Taylor from the Red Rose Foundation and Angela Lynch, the head of the Women’s Legal Service Queensland

What to do if you’re at risk of domestic violence

There are a number of services across Australia you can contact for help.  

  • The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800 737 732, available 24/7
  • Call 000 if you’re in immediate danger
  • Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277 
  •  Lifeline: 13 11 11

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