Great Britain

Rugby star Rowan Baxter ‘tried to stop passers-by helping his kids and wife after setting car alight with them inside’

WITNESSES have said ex-rugby star Rowan Baxter tried to stop passersby helping his kids and wife after allegedly ambushing their car in Brisbane and setting it on fire.

Rowan Baxter, 42, his 31-year-old wife Hannah, daughters Laianah, six, Aaliyah, four and three-year-old son Trey, were found dead by paramedics at 8.30am local time on Wednesday.

Witnesses told how Hannah - who died later in hospital - fled with her clothes in flames screaming "He's poured petrol on me!"

She had been driving the kids to school and he had been in the front passenger seat when the car suddenly erupted in flames, police said.

The white 4x4 vehicle was doused with petrol and set alight by Mr Baxter, a former New Zealand Warriors player, according to Australian media reports.

He died on the street after stabbing himself, the Australian newspaper reported, but the children were trapped in the car as it burnt near Mrs Baxter's parents' home, where she was living with the children.

The pair had reportedly separated late last year, and were trying to work out custody arrangements.

Neighbour Aaron Snell told the Courier Mail that Mr Baxter was in "all manner of states" and jumped into the flaming car to grab a knife as bystanders tried to help.

He claims the dad-of-three was angry at those trying to save the children trapped in the fire and "protested to stop putting it out".

Police said it was too early to be sure how the fire started.

"How the fire actually occurred has not been ascertained at the moment so for us to call it a murder-suicide or a tragic accident, it's inappropriate at this stage," Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said.

The car was still on fire when the emergency services crew arrived.

Adrian Tong, a senior operations supervisor, said: "I've been in the ambulance service for a long time and these things are always difficult when there's children involved. We did all we could."

Mrs Baxter was taken to the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in a critical condition, police said, but died later.

A passer-by was also treated for facial burns after he battled the inferno attempting to reach the children.

Mr Baxter had been running a gym with his wife in Brisbane after his playing career ended.

A crime scene was set up in Camp Hill in the east of the city as forensic teams moved in.

Neighbour Murray Campbell said he heard several explosions from his garden and ran to find the family dying in the blazing car.

He said: "It sounded like a gas bottle exploding. Next minute, voof, about four other explosions.

"By that time you couldn't get near the vehicle. Unless you had a proper suit on, you just had no hope. The young lady was rolling on the footpath in flames."

Shocked Australian PM Scott Morrison said: "My heart goes out to the families and community going through this tragic time and the emergency responders confronting what would be a shattering scene".