‘Worst of the worst’: The crime that shook top cop

 

 

POLICE Commissioner Katarina Carroll remembers exactly where she was the moment she learned about the horrific and public deaths of Hannah Clarke and her kids in what she described as Queensland's worst domestic violence incident in recent history.

In a tough first year, it was a moment that left her lost for hope and filled with disbelief in a year of many hardships, including the persistent battle to police frequently changing COVID-19 laws, as well as the intense public scrutiny and criticisms of systemic racism within the Service following the Black Lives movement.

In an in-depth interview with The Courier-Mail to mark her one-year-anniversary, the Commissioner reflects upon the best and worst of her first year as Queensland's top cop.

"It was the worst of the worst," are the words Commissioner Carroll used to describe the moment Hannah Clarke and her three children Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4, and Trey, 3, were murdered by the man who was meant to love and protect them most, when he doused them in petrol and set their car alight in an evil act of unimaginable violence on the leafy streets of Brisbane's Camp Hill.

"I will never forget where I was standing, what I was doing when that text came in," Commissioner Carroll said.

"I got the first message from my phone while I was in a meeting and I walked out and sat in my office over the river and thought to myself, 'really, really? Could this actually be happening? Oh my god, could this really be happening in our community?"

 

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll marks one year in the role as QPS Commissioner. Picture: AAP/David Clark
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll marks one year in the role as QPS Commissioner. Picture: AAP/David Clark

The Commissioner said the days following, including a visit to Hannah's family along with meetings with the officers who were first on scene, were the hardest, most "heart wrenching and heart breaking" moments she's had within her twelve months in the role.

"From an emotional and personal perspective that has been by far the hardest," she said.

"It really is heart wrenching and heart breaking, and even looking at it months later it's hard not to be moved by that."

Moving forward, Commissioner Carroll conceded some things need to be done differently to ensure the domestic violence tragedy that shocked the country does not happen again.

Among suggestions to legislative changes, the Commissioner is researching how countries around the world police domestic violence, including the introduction of coercive control legislation, where manipulative and controlling behaviours in a domestic situation will be outlawed, with hopes to minimise the escalation to physical violence.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll pictured leaving the home of Hannah Clarke’s parents’ house at Camp Hill. Picture: AAP/David Clark
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll pictured leaving the home of Hannah Clarke’s parents’ house at Camp Hill. Picture: AAP/David Clark

"I just started looking at (coercive control legislation), as have a lot of other areas," she said.

"I think that we always should look at better legislation going into the future, but we need to see the evidence across the world. If it definitely provides evidence that it really does make a difference to people's lives, then we should be considering things like that in the future."

Among several tough conversations Commissioner Carroll had in the days following Hannah and her children's murders included a house visit to meet with Hannah's parents.

"I spent a fair bit of time with Hannah's family, who are just amazing, amazing people," Commissioner Carroll said.

As part of discussions with Hannah's parents, the Commissioner listened to their suggestions of how to stop domestic violence in the future.

"For Hannah Clarke and Alison Baden-Clay and all these tragic, tragic deaths, we've got to learn from them," Commissioner Carroll said.

"It is tragic. We should not have this in this day and age. We had a DV death in Rockhampton just last week. And I sit there and think, how does this happen in a contemporary and modern society. We must keep learning and talking.

"We are constantly looking at better policies, better legislation. We must have this education in our schools and discussions with families and in our workplaces.

"Some of (the changes are) basic, and some of this very, very complex. It's always about learning and about implementing this into the future so we can stop this scourge."

The Black Lives Matter protest in Brisbane. Picture: John Gass
The Black Lives Matter protest in Brisbane. Picture: John Gass


Commissioner Carroll, who is the first female Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service, has been widely praised for her compassionate and nurturing leadership in one of the state's toughest roles, as evidenced by her stance on the Black Lives Matter protests following the death of US citizen George Floyd.

"That death should never have happened," Commissioner Carroll said.

"I understand why people would be very, very angry about that. And I understand why people would be voicing their concerns around the country."

Under Commissioner Carroll's direction, the QPS handed out 5,000 masks to protesters and worked closely with the Indigenous community at marches across the state.

When Commissioner Carroll joined the police in 1983, only four per cent of the service were female, however she brushed off suggestions that her progression to the top was made more difficult because of that.

"Whether you're a woman or not, this role is very, very challenging," Commissioner Carroll said.

"I don't know whether for me, the challenges are unique … I am compassionate and very passionate about my people and about community safety. I'm not sure whether it's a female trait or not, but certainly that's just me. I'm compassionate. I hope that will be one of my leadership legacies."

Proving her work is never done, Commissioner Carroll is today in Townsville to review the five-point plan as part of the state's Youth Justice Strategy.

She plans to mark the occasion of her first anniversary as Commissioner with a glass of wine after work.


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