‘Phone call to a killer’: One regret of Hannah’s best friend

 

Hannah Clarke's closest friend has told how she wished she'd reached out to Hannah's estranged husband in case he'd given her some warning of what he was about to do.

Speaking on a panel at the Beyond DV annual High Tea and Fashion Show fundraiser, Lou Farmer spoke about how she'd provided a "safe space" for Hannah after she and other friends spoke to her about how she was being treated.

"One thing I would probably do differently, which I didn't do with Han … I kind of wish maybe I had rung him and found out if he was unravelling," she told the event.

"If I'd spoken to him … maybe if we'd checked in with him and saw some of the language (around) what he was saying, (the situation) was probably worse than we thought it was.

"We didn't think we were up against that."

Murder victim Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3.
Murder victim Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3.

Ms Farmer spoke on a panel of domestic violence experts and survivors to a packed event at the Victoria Park Golf Course yesterday.

Hannah Clarke and her three children, Aaliyah, 6, Laianah, 4 and Trey, 3, were killed by their father during the morning school run.

Their horrific deaths shocked the nation and put the spotlight on the country's domestic violence crisis.

Lou Farmer, Hannah Clarke’s best friend and Samantha Cooper, domestic violence survivor, spoke at a Beyond DV fundraising event. Pic: Peter Wallis.
Lou Farmer, Hannah Clarke’s best friend and Samantha Cooper, domestic violence survivor, spoke at a Beyond DV fundraising event. Pic: Peter Wallis.

The function, hosted by Beyond DV founder Carolyn Robinson, was attended by guests including Brisbane Lady Mayoress, Nina Schrinner, Hannah's mother, Sue Clarke, and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Council co-chair, Kay McGrath.

Ms Farmer said her advice to anyone worried about a friend was to talk to them.

"It's better to reach out and be rejected than to not do anything at all," she said.

"Han had a good little tribe. And what we gave her and the kids was a happy place."

She said she and Hannah's friends had decided to speak to her about her relationship after noticing a "pattern of behaviour that just didn't sit right".

Hannah Clarke’s children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.
Hannah Clarke’s children, Aaliyah, Laianah and Trey.

"He had fierce control over everything that happened in her life - what clothes she wore, who she saw, where she'd go, finance. It was his way or the highway," Ms Farmer said.

"I spoke to her and I said, I think something's going on. Han never thought she was in a DV relationship. She was not hit.

"And I didn't know what I was dealing with either. I'd never even heard of coercive control.

"But I knew that something wasn't right and I talked to her friends as well about it and (we decided) we've got to speak up and say something to her."

Also on the panel was Samantha Cooper, whose former partner Conan Visser pleaded guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm and common assault after breaking into her home and choking her.

Ms Cooper said she had been in several controlling or dangerous relationships, including one in which she was subjected to constant vile racist comments.

White Ribbon Australia executive director speaks at the Beyond DV fundraiser on a panel with (L-R) journalist and academic Amanda Gearing, Senior Sergeant Bernie Quinlan, and domestic violence advocates Lou Farmer and Samantha Cooper.
White Ribbon Australia executive director speaks at the Beyond DV fundraiser on a panel with (L-R) journalist and academic Amanda Gearing, Senior Sergeant Bernie Quinlan, and domestic violence advocates Lou Farmer and Samantha Cooper.

"The outbursts that came up (were) because I was an angry black woman - that I should know my place because I'm a black woman, that he'd have to hide his wallet if we had children because we would have Aboriginal kids," she said.

"DV is so incredibly complicated. You can't ever judge a woman for where she's sitting, for where she's at."

Ms Cooper, along with Sue Clarke, helps Beyond DV run educational seminars for young people that teach them about the warning signs of controlling relationships.

Senior Sergeant Bernie Quinlan, from the South Brisbane Vulnerable Persons Unit, said community groups and social networks were one of the most important tools for helping women in danger.

"How confronting it must be for a woman to go to a police station and tell intimate details of their life to a complete stranger," he said.

"It must be so difficult.

"(But) I will never be able to help someone unless I know."

Originally published as Hannah Clarke's bestie: 'What I would have done different'