Husband having affair before family ‘murder-suicide’
A Sydney businessman accused of killing his family in a suspected murder-suicide was having an affair with a 17-year-old girl in the Philippines at the time of their deaths.
An inquest began on Monday into the deaths of Maria Lutz, 43, her husband Fernando Manrique, 44, and the couple's two young children Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, who were all found dead in their Davidson home on the northern beaches in October 2016.
Mr Manrique, a 44-year-old successful businessman, is believed to have spent days rigging up numerous pipes in the ceiling and then pumping them with carbon monoxide from gas cylinders on the night of October 16, 2016.
Counsel assisting the Coroner Adam Casselden told the inquest that Mr Manrique was seeing the teenager in the Philippines in the four months before their deaths.
The girl known only as Jamilyn told Australian police that they had met in a bar where she had worked and spent two weeks together before he told her to quit her job and he would support her.
"Jamilyn said Fernando intended to buy her a property but never did so," Mr Casselden said.
Ms Lutz found out about the affair and, already deeply unhappy in the marriage, asked for a divorce.
The bodies of the four family members were found in different rooms by police officers conducting a welfare check.
The alarm had been raised by Ms Lutz' friend Nichole Brimble who contacted police when she failed to show up for canteen duty at her children's school St Lucy's on the morning of Monday, October 17.
Mr Manrique's body was in the TV room while his wife and his daughter's body were in a bedroom lying side-by-side. Martin's body was in another bedroom with the body of bull mastiff, Tequila, on the floor.
Their deaths sent shockwaves through the community especially at the close-knit school of St Lucy's where, Ms Lutz, a former lawyer, spent many hours volunteering.
Mr Manrique was in "dire straits," financially when he concocted the deadly plan, a police detective told the inquest on Monday.
Detective Sergeant Timothy Pooley said Mr Manrique's credit card was $28,000 in debt, there was only $6 in a family trust account, a few thousand dollars in a couple of everyday accounts and he had switched two mortgage loans totalling $510,000 to interest only repayments.
"He was in dire straits and had some massive tax issues with the tax office," Det Sgt Poole said.
The inquest heard that despite his debts Mr Manrique would buy gifts for girlfriends he met on overseas business trips when he should have been paying off what he owed.
"There were health services Maria could not take the kids to because of lack of money," Det Sgt Pooley said.
Prior to their deaths Ms Lutz had told Mr Manrique she wanted a divorce. She was also about to receive $50,000 from the National Disability Insurance Scheme to help care for her children and allow her to return to work.
"She would have been better off than she had been for years," Det Sgt Pooley said.
Det Sgt Pooley said Ms Lutz had told friends, "she'd had enough of him … she was going to go and raise the children and she was going to live her own life."
The inquest heard Ms Lutz kicked her husband out of the house in September after he had a loud conversation on the phone at 2am.
By the time she allowed him to return on October 2 he appeared to have already set his lethal plan in motion having ordered two carbon monoxide cylinders from BOC Ltd on September 30.
Mr Casselden told the inquest that Mr Manrique was under financial difficulties at the time of the deaths and owed the Australian Taxation Office more than $15,000.
He said Mr Manrique ordered two cylinders of carbon monoxide from BOC Ltd and arranged for them to be delivered to the home of friend Jairo Campos in Parklea.
Mr Casselden said Mr Manrique lied to Mr Campos saying he needed the gas for work to test at an underground carpark.
He said Mr Manrique had, "planned the deaths of his family over the course of some time," and that any speculation that his wife was involved was false.
"Maria had no awareness or involvement in Fernando's plans … Fernando took deliberate steps to hide the gas from her."
Mr Casselden said Ms Lutz was "devoted" to her children and that she had told friends she was excited about receiving assistance from the National Insurance Disability Scheme which would mean she could return to work.
Mr Casselden said one of the purposes of the inquest was to explore if there needed to be tighter laws and regulations around people's ability to obtain and store poisonous gases.