Lead cop on Brisbane murder-suicide stood down after 'disgusting' comments

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

The senior police detective who was publicly criticised for his comments over the deaths of a mother and her three children at the hands of her estranged husband has been asked to stand aside.

Queensland Police Detective Inspector, Mark Thompson, was intensely criticised after saying police were keeping an “open mind” over the cause of the deaths of Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, during a press conference on Thursday. 

He said their deaths may have been a case of a "husband being driven too far by issues" or a woman and children suffering extreme domestic violence.

"I have spoken to Detective Inspector Mark Thompson who was very upset about the situation" commissioner Katarina Carroll said on Friday.

"To ensure public confidence I have asked Detective Inspector Thompson to step aside from the investigation."

Detective Inspector Mark Thompson speaking to media on Thursday. Source: 7News

Commissioner Carroll has apologised for what was said, adding that the phrasing was wrong and Det Insp Thompson was gutted about the words he used. 

Domestic violence campaigners including Red Rose Foundation's Betty Taylor and Angela Lynch, the head of the Women's Legal Service Queensland, have condemned the comments.

"[They are] victim-blaming at its worst,” Ms Taylor said.

"Nothing the victim does should end her life tragically. Women have a right to walk away from a relationship of any description."

There was a wave of criticism online, with several Twitter users branding Det Insp Thompson’s comments as “disgusting”.

Ms Clarke, 31, and her children were killed when Rowan 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 reporters in a 13-minute press conference.

Hannah Clarke with her husband Rowan and their three young children. Source: Facebook
Dozens of emergency services personnel attended the scene. Source: AAP

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.

"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?"

Commissioner reveals shock over comments

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Commissioner Carroll said she felt sorry for Det Insp Thompson and described him as an “exceptionally good police officer”.

However she said standing him aside was the right decision and Det Insp Thompson agreed.

“I thought to myself, ‘Wow. You know, this is really hurtful to anyone that would be affected by this, by domestic and family violence - something that we are trying to get rid of in our society, and work so hard to support, particularly, victims,” Commissioner Carroll continued.

She insisted it was integral to deal with the matter at hand and not “the noise” surrounding it.

“We want to remove the noise and concentration on the issue,” she said.

“So, the issue is there is a murder, there’s a mother and three children who have been murdered. And I want to concentrate on that.”

With AAP

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