Many people were very concerned to hear and read the words of Brisbane Detective Inspector Mark Thompson, on Thursday, when discussing the investigation into the violent deaths of Brisbane’s Hannah Clarke and her children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, who were allegedly set alight in the family car by her estranged husband Rowan Baxter.
“Our job as investigators is to keep a completely open mind,” Inspector Thompson said on Thursday.
All Australians completely agree.
“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.
There are no ‘sides’ to be taken into account. Four people were murdered. That’s what the police have to investigate.
As a community we can have a debate, which will not change the evidence that four people were killed by someone in a violent act.
We might ask what would justify a man killing someone? The usual answer lawyers look for is ‘self-defence’.
We would rely on the police to assess evidence that one of the four victims, or all colluding, threatened the man’s life in such a way that he believed one of them was just about to kill him.
We as a community can ask of that police assessment: “Is it likely an adult man had to defend himself against three children and a woman doing a school drop?”
And then we need to start a conversation about it – and talk about it a lot.
“Is this an issue of a woman suffering significant domestic violence and her and her children perishing at the hands of the husband,” Inspector Thompson went on to say.
Objective facts will determine the evidence. This will have nothing to do with any of our preconceived ideas, those of the community, or those of the police.
“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?” he continued.
Pardon me? A man who doesn’t reside in the house of his family goes to another suburb and stops a car in a suburban street to commit an act of violence, which objective evidence shows left four people dead.
“That’s why I want people to come and speak to us; if we are going to build a complete picture as to what has occurred, then we need to need to speak to everyone,” he said.
But the relevant people are all dead.
Detective Inspector Thompson has been stood down from the case and the Queensland Police Commissioner has apologised for the comment. But the level of victim blaming in cases of domestic violence in Australia has once again been exposed.
Ben Smee, The Guardian, wrote about Hannah Clarke and the victim blaming that occurred and the “broader concern: that the comments may point to a policing approach that failed to recognise the risk factors and escalation of Baxter’s behaviour.”
Dr Hannah McGlade recently shone the light on Indigenous women and domestic violence in this powerful opinion piece for Mammamia “Indigenous women are the unheard victims of domestic violence. It’s time to break the silence.”
Jess Hill’s book ‘See What You Made Me Do’ is a deep dive into the sorry state of domestic violence and has been made into a SBS series well worth the watch.