When news broke in 2016 that an entire family had been found dead in their northern Sydney home, headlines told of a tragic murder-suicide. Fernando Manrique had rigged their Davidson house with a system of pipes through which he pumped dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, thereby poisoning his wife, Maria Claudia Lutz, and their children, Martin, 10, and Elisa, 11.
Before long, a narrative was constructed around the revelation both children lived with Autism Spectrum Disorder. There were suggestions in the media that perhaps Maria and Fernando had struggled with their high-care needs, that it all became too much. But as well as being damaging to the Autism community, this story never seemed to reconcile with the devoted, caring, advocate Maria’s friends knew her to be.
And indeed, a coronial inquest currently taking place into the case is uncovering a different story. As well as revelations that Fernando was having an affair with a teenager in the Philippines, evidence has emerged suggesting the 44-year-old may have planned to make it out of the house alive.
Speaking to Mamamia‘s daily podcast, The Quicky, The Daily Telegraph journalist, Ava Benny-Morrison, who has been attending the inquest, said police have uncovered multiple pieces of evidence that may indicate the father didn’t intend to die that day.
“They included that there were two suitcases packed with men’s clothing found in the house. His passport was also found there, too. He had transferred several thousand dollars to a teenage girlfriend that he had in the Philippines not long before he died, and his body was found in the hallway face down, whereas his children’s bodies and the body of his wife Maria were found in the bedrooms,” she said.
“He’d also only hooked up the gas to filter down into two of the bedrooms and the fans were turned on at the highest speed in those bedrooms, as well.
“He’d also burnt his hard drives and his computer, which had a lot of photographs of his family on there. It was initially thought that that was just a final act, I guess, as to get rid of any evidence of the family – another cruel act. But it also could have been him covering his tracks. You’d think that he would have been researching how to hook up this gas system that he did, as well.
“So there are a number of unanswered questions, I think, and we may never get the answers.”