By Hayden Cooper and Paige MacKenzie
A woman found dead alongside her family in a Sydney murder-suicide case was a fighter and an amazing mother, say friends who she worked with at a school for children with disabilities.
Maria Claudia Lutz, her husband Fernando Manrique and their two children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, who both had autism, were found dead in their home in the northern Sydney suburb of Davidson on Monday.
Karen Hickmott is one of half a dozen women who knew Maria Claudia Lutz through St Lucy’s primary school in Wahroonga.
“She was always caring about everyone else, it didn’t matter what was happening in her life, she was always most worried about everyone else,” Ms Hickmott told 7.30.
“She never let any of her troubles show, she was a fighter and she was tough.”
So it was a surprise to them all when Ms Lutz didn’t turn up for her regular canteen duty on Monday morning.
“Maria and I ran the canteen together, every Monday, for the last two years, and she was always here before me,” Nichole Brimble told 7.30.
“When I turned up and she wasn’t here, I knew something was wrong. And the kids weren’t here.
“When we couldn’t make contact, we made the call to police to ask them to go and check on them.
“Then we found out, the principal called me into his office about 12 o’clock to let me know what happened.”
‘Maria was the glue for this group’
There had been nothing in Ms Lutz’s behaviour that gave an indication that anything was wrong.
“We’d all been out for coffee on Friday and we all sat in the nursery … and she was in such good spirits,” Peta Rostirola remembered.
“She was Maria, she was loud and funny and she was so happy her life was going in the right direction.
“She’d had a meeting with the NDIS and she was so excited she was going to be getting all this help.
“She even felt guilty for taking that, she was just the most selfless person.”
The group of friends and the whole of the school community are struggling to comprehend what has happened.
“We are a very, very close family here at the school,” Javiera Cori told 7.30.
“We do support each other very much, especially when you don’t have family around, so we are the family.”
“Maria was the glue for this group,” Kerrie Dietz told 7.30. “She was an amazing mother.”