In debt, having an affair & murdering his family: Fernando Manrique

In debt, having an affair & murdering his family: Yet people raised their kids having autism.

Two and a half years ago a Colombian family who had made a life in Sydney made headlines for the worst of all reasons.

Fernando Manrique, Maria Lutz, and their two children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, were all found dead inside their family home on the north shore. It was quickly reported as a murder suicide. They had died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Disturbingly a narrative emerged early on that painted the alleged actions of Manrique as almost gallant because their two children had autism.

Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke offered this: “I agree it’s a tragedy, but until you walk in their shoes, it’s very hard to be critical.”

Even hypothetically the idea that having a child with any form of disability is somehow relevant to a parent deciding to end that child’s life is abhorrent.

For the close friends of Maria Lutz, a small group of mothers from the school which their children attended, who knew what was happening inside the household in the weeks leading up to the tragedy, this wasn’t just hurtful, horrifying speculation: it was entirely baseless.

Maria Lutz absolutely adored her children and lived for them. The women who knew her best, knew that. They said she wasn’t a woman struggling with her children: she was described as a warrior who would do anything for them.

They decided to speak up: they wanted the focus off the children’s disabilities and made sure reporters knew it. They were certain the deaths of Maria and her children were not the result of some sort of pact, that it was a not an act in which Maria would ever have been complicit.

It was, they feared, murder: they knew the marriage between Maria and Fernando was folding and this was the devastating consequence of a man who had lost control.

A coronial inquiry currently underway in Sydney indicates it was all this and more.

On Monday it was revealed to the inquiry that Fernando was in a relationship with a teenager he had met while on business in the Philippines and the family’s finances were in “dire straits”.

Detective Sergeant Timothy Pooley told the Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott that while Maria was at school with the kids Manrique was setting up the deadly mechanism that would pump carbon monoxide into the house in Davidson while the family slept.

Just under a month before they all died he had opened up an account with gas supplier BOC and Detective Sergeant Pooley said “his intention was clear”. In the days before the murder, Fernando made multiple trips to a hardware store to buy equipment.

It was calculated and callous and as far from comprehensible, let alone gallant, as humanly possible. That anyone even contemplated that there might have been some sort of ‘explanation’ for this crime is truly shocking to consider.

It speaks volumes about the appeal of victim-blaming: how desperate we can be to cling on to some sort of reason or justification for horror. There is no reason and no justification.

Their names are Maria Lutz, Elisa Manrique and Martin Manrique. They were loved.

Stay Smart! Get Savvy!

Get Women's Agenda in your inbox