Was it a warning?
If it was, and in hindsight many friends of fitness guru and father of three small children Rowan Baxter, may now be reflecting that something strange was afoot when they saw a video he posted on his Facebook page last month showing him “playing” with his children.
They either missed the “message” or felt impotent to do anything about it.
Baxter originally posted the video on January 6 when he had been living apart from his estranged wife and children for a number of weeks
It was shown again this week by news outlets after the horrific murder-suicide by Baxter, his wife Hannah and three small children in an act of brutality that has shocked the world.
He incinerated them in a car in a suburban street and then stabbed himself to death in a suspected domestic violence incident.
The video, which shows Baxter rough-housing around with the two little girls Aaliya, 6 and Laianah, 3, and baby brother Trey 3, makes uneasy watching.
All of those in the SheSociety office who saw the video this week were disturbed by what they saw, especially the muscle bulging Baxter’s treatment of nappy-wearing Trey.
Aaliya and Laianah seem to be enjoying the rough stuff and giggle. But then Baxter puts Trey in a professional wrestlers headlock before slamming his head into a bed.
Trey is then knocked down by his Dad and begins to cry.
Baxter signs off the video with the message “Sweet dreams my babies xo. Love you to the moon and back”.
Hundreds of people went into Baxter’s page to post mostly damning comments under the video after seeing it yesterday.
Like us, they saw something sinister. Nearly seven weeks after first posting the video, the headlock Baxter put on his baby son had escalated to murder, fulfilling mum Hannah’s worst nightmare.
Friend Caitlin Langford said Ms Baxter was “just the most beautiful woman”.
“She was kind, and strong, and lit up any room,” she said.
“She was the most beautiful mama to her babies and the most inspirational role model.”
Hannah and Rowan Baxter ran a fitness business at Capalaba for about five years. Ms Baxter was a champion in trampoline sports and specialised in kids and “Mums n’ bubs” classes.
The gym shut its doors late last year.
Friends of the couple told the ABC that signs of the Baxters’ lives unravelling were there.
Ms Baxter had moved out with the children, and Mr Baxter, months away from his 43rd birthday, was left living alone in the three-bedroom Carindale home the family had shared..
Friends said problems in the marriage had been visible for some time.
“She loved them so fiercely and she was doing everything she could to protect them,” Ms Langford said.
Queensland University of Technology Professor Kerry Carrington, who is an expert in gender violence believes the deaths could have been prevented with earlier intervention.
“The most risky time for a woman is in fact during the first six months of separation,” she told ABC Radio National on Thursday.”
Posting on Facebook after the children’s death, Ms Sherele Moody, the founder of the Red Heart Campaign, which highlights violence against women and children and pushes for action, said Australia was “broken”.
“It is fair to say that violence in Australia has reached heinous new heights. To burn three kids alive is just the most abhorrent act,” she wrote.
“Their deaths coincided with news today that the national domestic violence helpline 1800 RESPECT saw a massive increase in calls over the past year and many of those callers – women like Hannah – were not receiving the responses and support they needed.
“If our national helpline for domestic violence victims cannot cope, we will see many more women and children killed.
“Today, Australia really is broken.”
Family, domestic and sexual violence affects people of all ages and from all backgrounds, but it predominantly affects women and children.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that 2.2 million adults have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence from a partner.
HOW COMMON IS FAMILY, DOMESTIC AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE?
* On average, one woman is killed every week by a current or former intimate partner. In recent years, more than one woman a week has been killed.
* 74 Australian women and 27 children died in 2019, most at the hands of someone they loved.
* Every day, eight women are hospitalised with critical injuries inflicted by an intimate partner.
* One in six women and one in 16 men have experienced physical or sexual violence.
* One in four women and one in six men have experienced emotional abuse.
* One in five women and one in 20 men have experienced sexual violence.
Family violence support services:
- 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
- Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
- Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
- Relationships Australia 1300 364 277
She Society is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.