A cousin of killer Brisbane dad Rowan Baxter says he was an “angry” child growing up who showed signs of “cruelty”.
Alana Hampson is estranged from the Baxter family but lived with Rowan and his brother Charles as a teenager while she was going through foster care.
“He was an angry kid,” the 38-year-old told news.com.au.
“There was a bit of cruelty there sometimes, little hints throughout his life. He would yell at you to get out of his room or swear at you. Rowan was like that real abrupt kid. Just one of those rough tumbling boys with attitude.”
Last week, the 42-year-old former NRL player burned his estranged wife Hannah Clarke and their three children to death in the family SUV before fatally stabbing himself.
Ms Hampson said she had “nothing bad to say” about Charles — a former rugby star who represented New Zealand between 2003 and 2007.
Jonelle Baxter, Charles’ wife and Rowan’s sister-in-law, last week told the NZ Herald the family wouldn’t be commenting on the circumstances around the tragedy as it was “a sensitive time”.
In a 2004 newspaper interview, Rowan claimed he had quit rugby union to join the Mt Albert Lions rugby league club after being repeatedly overlooked for selection by the Bay of Plenty Steamers.
“Word got back to me they (Bay of Plenty) thought I had anger problems,” Baxter told The Daily Post. He was reportedly involved in two vicious brawls while playing club rugby for Te Puke in 2002 and 2003.
“That’s the way I play, I don’t regret it, that’s who I am,” Baxter said.
Ms Hampson’s mother, Dorothy Ann Baxter, is the sister of Rowan’s father, Charlie — one of nine brothers and sisters in the clan from New Zealand’s Tauranga region.
“I haven’t been around my family most of my life — I hate my family,” Ms Hampson said.
“(He was) f***ed in the head. There was a lot of violence. The Baxters had a hard life. (One of my other cousins), his younger baby died. The baby coffin was put in the car and he did doughnuts.”
Ms Hampson, who was put in a foster home when she was 13 or 14, admits she hasn’t “done great things in my life”. “I spent 10 years in prison,” she said.
“I didn’t have a good life. I did do armed robbery and had other charges as well — I have a rap sheet about 16 pages long. I was a rough kid but I’m doing better now even though the life I’ve had. I think people can change.”
She added, “I haven’t had a clean life myself but for someone to do that … I can’t believe anyone would do that. Someone told me you’ve got to forgive — you can’t forgive that.”
While she last saw Rowan “a long time ago”, she says the horrific murders have left the family shell-shocked. “It’s affected all my aunties, they’re speechless,” she said.
It comes after another of Baxter’s cousins — from his mother’s side — told 9 News about the degrading views he held about women.
“For everybody else, they’re shocked — I’m not,” Sandra Taylor said.
“Not that I’m saying Rowan is a victim, but Rowan has been raised by a father and his father and his father, and it goes onwards, that women are two things — to be the house cleaner and to be a prostitute.”
In a separate interview with The Daily Mail, the 45-year-old said Baxter’s behaviour became increasingly worrying in the months leading up to the murders.
“Rowan was a man with a dangerous sense of possession and entitlement over his wife and children, particularly in the last three months, that I was concerned for,” she said.
“This was a man with a level of hatred and disrespect for their mother so great that he would make this choice — the most horrifying and despicable of choices.”
Speaking to news.com.au, a distraught Dorothy Ann Baxter described Rowan as “a good boy” who “lost the plot”. Ms Baxter hadn’t seen Rowan since he moved to Australia.
“He was always a good boy. I can’t understand,” she said.
“He’s lost the plot. I don’t know. He couldn’t handle it then one day he just lost it. It’s not good. But I know he wouldn’t do it out of his own mind so he had to be … lost it, just lost the plot. Some of us do. I’m not saying Rowan was good for what he did but people do lose the plot.”
Over the weekend, it emerged that Baxter rejected his lawyer’s advice during a mediation session with Ms Clarke and refused to sign the order that would allow him 165 days of custody per year.
He lost access to his children in early February when police charged him with breaching a domestic violence order.
“He got the children back but he wanted 50-50, that was it,” a source told the ABC. “It was his way or nothing. In my view, it wasn’t about the children at all, he just couldn’t move past the relationship with Hannah.”
Ms Baxter said the rest of the family were not coping well. “Not good, not good at all,” she said. “They’re trying to get Rowan back.”
Around 1000 mourners attended a vigil in South Brisbane yesterday for the 31-year-old mum, six-year-old Aaliyah, four-year-old Laianah and three-year-old Trey.
Asked about funeral arrangements for Rowan, Ms Baxter said “of course there’s going to be a funeral” but she didn’t know when. “They’ve got to get him back here first, the cops have still got him haven’t they?”
She added, “We’re going to say goodbye to him. He’s going to be put with his mother. I’m just glad my mum wasn’t here because it would have killed her.”
But Ms Hampson says she is “definitely not going to the funeral”. “I can’t bring myself to see that,” she said. “It’s a bit hard to swallow. He can rot in hell for what he did to those kids.”