Maria Lutz and Fernando Manrique had a tenuous marriage that was in “serious trouble” before they were found dead in their Wahroonga home in October, an investigative piece by Ava Benny-Morrison for the Sydney Morning Herald claims.
Manrique’s long business trips and the difficulty of raising two young intellectually disabled children – Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10 – drove a wedge between the pair, close friends told the publication. Often, they said, the father would opt to travel overseas for the school holidays rather than spend time with his children, both of whom had autism.
“[Maria] would never have time to organise respite because it would be a last-minute thing – he would just go,” close friend and fellow mother at St Lucy’s, a special needs primary school, Peta Rostirola said.
"She kept saying, 'I have to untangle everything and it is taking me ages because I have to finish my study, deal with the kids and Fernando is away all the time.'"
'Untangling everything' reportedly involved Lutz, a trained criminal lawyer, consulting a solicitor in August 2015 about how to make the separation from her high school sweetheart as smooth as possible for her children - a meeting she never told Manrique about.
"She couldn't afford the emotional upheaval of presenting that to him because she needed to deal day-to-day with what she had," Nichole Brimble, friend and canteen co-worker, told the publication.
While the fractured marriage was well-known between the tight-knit group at St Lucy's, Manrique's possible mental health struggle was not - the only time Lutz alluded to it was a comment about her husband being "not in a good place".