Sydney tragedy: Family had not contacted 'Dr Death's' organisation

By The Daily Telegraph

Maria Claudia Lutz and children Elisa and Martin were gassed in suspected murder suicide. Photo / Facebook
Maria Claudia Lutz and children Elisa and Martin were gassed in suspected murder suicide. Photo / Facebook

Reports the Davidson father who is believed to have killed his wife, two children and himself contacted a euthanasia group founded by Australian Philip Nitschke on how to use carbon monoxide to commit suicide has since been refuted.

Dr Nitschke initially told the Australian newspaper the Manrique-Lutz family "had some contact" with his Exit International organisation and had accessed an e-handbook which detailed how to use the deadly, odourless gas.

"I didn't talk to them personally but they had access to the book (The Peaceful Pill)," Mr Nitschke reportedly told the newspaper.

"They knew about carbon monoxide. But it wasn't the case that they were coming for a meeting. Parents sometimes get taken to extreme levels of stress, and it's hard to be critical. It's easy for us to sit here and say we are critical."

However, Nitschke later clarified his comment, saying that after checking the database, Manrique had not downloaded the book.

"Fernando Manrique did not access our book," he told Fairfax.

Police have been unable to say if Fernando Manrique, 44, who was seen by neighbours rigging up pipes to the home over the weekend, gassed his wife Maria Claudia Lutz, and their children Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, using carbon monoxide with her knowledge.

The group was found dead at their Davidson home on Monday after Mrs Lutz and the children failed to turn up to their school where the mother did canteen duty.

Dr Nitschke said he had never had someone come to his group "wanting advice" on how to kill a whole family and in the couple's native Colombia over the counter suicide drugs could be purchased.

Exit International's suicide handbook is banned in Australia but Dr Nitschke said it was available in Colombia's capital Bogota and was popular there.

Fernando Manrique is believed to have rigged up a system to kill his wife Maria Claudia Lutz and children.
Fernando Manrique is believed to have rigged up a system to kill his wife Maria Claudia Lutz and children.

Dr Nitschke established his group in 1997 believing suicide was a fundamental human right.

It has emerged devoted mother, Maria, 43, struggled to juggle the pressures of living in a country far from home, while meeting the daily medical and therapy challenges of two deaf and non-verbal children.

And with Mr Manrique spending huge swathes of time in Asia working, she appeared to crack under the strain of managing her "little angels" and announced weeks ago she was quitting the Northern Beaches, where the couple had lived since 2005, to return to Bogota to seek help from family.

Her desperation to quit Australia drove a wedge between the pair who also fought over how best to raise their two children Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10.

With a stable career as executive director of technology and business outsourcing company Drake Business Logistics, Manrique insisted on staying and aspired to launch his own business aimed at outsourcing technology for the banking sector.

A scare earlier this year when Elisa left the house and was found five hours later in a nearby park, highlighted the growing problems ahead and confirmed Maria's desire to return home.

A close friend, who asked not to be named, told The City Paper in Bogota: "With a marriage struggling over constant worries of the future of their severely autistic children, María Claudia wanted to return to Colombia. The children could not travel due to their health issues on a 14-hour flight and in order to comfort María Claudia, her family would visit Australia once-a-year."

The friend added: "She was going home this year, she decided."

The shock deaths of the family, including their German shepherd, appears to have been a meticulously planned murder-suicide involving carbon monoxide.

Police investigators of the Northern Beaches have unearthed an "elaborate gas network" in the home in Davidson that Manrique had built himself.

Maria was found in one room with their daughter, while their son was found in another room alone.

Manrique was found on his own in another room.

A day before the bodies were discovered, on Monday morning, Manrique was seen on the roof of the four-bedroom home on Sir Thomas Mitchell Drive with power tools.

Police have not been able to rule out a murder suicide pact with his wife.

Maria and Manrique knew each other as young students within in the private school circles of the Gimnasianos - girls from the exclusive Gimnasio Feminino and boys at Gimnasio Campestre.

She married her childhood sweetheart and, according to a close friend, was a "top honour student" who excelled in law studies at prestigious Rosario University in Bogotá.

The friend told The City Paper: "Maria Claudia had met her perfect match and seemed very much in love before the children were born."

They left Colombia after Manrique was accepted for an MBA at Macquarie University in Sydney, and in 2005, the young couple moved to Australia.

That year the couple welcomed their first born Elisa in May and Martin in August 2006. Both children were diagnosed with severe autistic disabilities.

The everyday strain of raising children with significant disabilities appears to have affected their marriage causing Manrique to "become distant" and Maria to feel isolated, recalled another friend.

Warren Hopley, acting principal of St Lucy's where the children were school, revealed on Monday at a press conference: "I don't think she slept for many hours of the night because of the difficulties."

María described her children to friends as "very special little angels" who taught her to look at the world "differently."

She told friends Elisa and Martin saw life simply without complications.

"They are totally honest and direct. There are no social rules," she old one.

Friend Peta Rostirola said Maria had been looking forward to getting financial help from the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

"She even felt guilty for taking that, she was just the most selfless person," she said.

Meanwhile, Sydney's Colombian community has united to remember the lives of the Davidson family.

Ten members of the Australian Colombian Association, some with children the same age as the two young lives snuffed out, gathered on the front of the Davidson home, laying flowers, sending their well wishes and conducting a prayer.

Maria Claudia Lutz, 43, was found dead in one room with daughter Elisa, 11, while Martin, 10, was found dead in another room on Monday.

Her husband Fernando Manrique, 44, is believed to have rigged up an eleobrate systems of pipes that pumped carbon monoxide into the home killing all four family members.

The alarm was raised when the children failed to turn up to school and Mrs Lutz was missing from canteen duty.

The organiser of the vigil, also named Maria, said they came to grieve and celebrate Mrs Lutz's life.

"It is so shocking for the Colombian community but also the community at large. It is so huge, even if you don't know the people, you want to be a part of this," she said.

Jill, who worked at the school the two children attended, St Lucy's in Wahronga, remembered Ms Lutz's joyful and nuturing nature.

"Maria was at the centre of it all, she made us want to be better people. She loved those children, every part of them and they were a credit to their mum," she said.

People who know her describe Maria Lutz as having a joyful and nurturing natures. She is photographed her with son Martin. Photo / Facebook
People who know her describe Maria Lutz as having a joyful and nurturing natures. She is photographed her with son Martin. Photo / Facebook

Where to get help:
Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

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