Sydney gas house: Children of family of four found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning had autism

SMH

Family, friends and community distraught after parents and two children found dead in their home.

When police forced their way into the Lutz-Manrique family home, there were no signs of violence or chemical odour alerting them to the horror inside. 

It was not until officers found two cylinders outside the Sydney home that they uncovered the elaborate gas network that claimed the lives of a mother, father and two children in a suspected murder suicide. 

Detectives believe "air-borne gas" deliberately filtered through the sprawling home in Sydney's north likely killed Maria Claudia Lutz, 43, Fernando Manrique, 44, and their children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10.

The children's mother, Maria Claudia Lutz, was very active in the school and community.
Supplied

The children's mother, Maria Claudia Lutz, was very active in the school and community.

Both children had autism.

When officers found the bodies on Monday morning, the house was completely locked up with the odourless gas carbon monoxide believed to have been used in the tragic deaths.

READ MORE: Parents and two children found dead in Australian home

Martin, 10, and Elisa, 11, were found dead in the house with their parents.
Supplied

Martin, 10, and Elisa, 11, were found dead in the house with their parents.

A system running the gas from the bottles and through to the ceiling was later uncovered in what investigators believe was a "deliberate move" to kill the entire family, including the dog. 

One of the main questions taunting those who knew the seemingly-happy parents, who juggled the complex needs of their children, was why?

Manrique and Lutz, who studied law in Colombia, moved to the Sir Mitchell Thomas Drive home about a decade ago. Manrique, a successful executive who forged a career in business logistics after studying science in industrial engineering in his native Colombia, spent his spare time steadily improving the home. 

The family dog was also found dead.
Supplied

The family dog was also found dead.

He had made it safer for his children, who both had significant intellectual disabilities. 

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"The dad put gates up so the kids couldn't get out and put up a cabana and a trampoline and things for the kids,"  said resident Shaun Mayatt after placing flowers outside the home. 

His partner, Moiran​ added: "The mum and dad were always in the garden and looking after the kids."

The tight-knit community is grappling with the shock news.
Wolter Peeters/SMH

The tight-knit community is grappling with the shock news.

Neighbours said on Saturday they saw Manrique in the front yard of his property working on what appeared to be the gazebo, which stands next to a trampoline and manicured hedges. 

It is unclear exactly when the family succumbed to the air-borne gas. 

Lutz had spent Friday afternoon having coffee with her close friends, a tight-knit group of women who had children at St Lucy's Catholic primary school. They saw Lutz as "the glue" that held them together.

Neighbours say the children were often seen playing in the back yard.
Wolter Peeters/SMH

Neighbours say the children were often seen playing in the back yard.

It was one of these women who called police on Monday morning when Lutz didn't turn up to her weekly canteen shift at the school. Martin and Elisa weren't in class either. 

Teachers at the small school were told that afternoon that the mother, father and children were dead. 

Staff and close friends, many carrying flowers and balloons, gathered at the Wahroonga school on Tuesday, as they remembered Lutz as a vibrant and passionate woman who took on so much. 

Police were called after the children and their mother failed to turn up at school and calls went unanswered.
SMH

Police were called after the children and their mother failed to turn up at school and calls went unanswered.

"She just took on so much and just kept going and fought the fight for everyone," teacher's aide Belinda Ings said. 

"I don't know how she had room in her mind or her energy to know what was going on in any of our lives but she always did."

Elisa's teacher, Ed Hayes, said the 11-year-old was a beautiful and smart girl. 

"Eli, Im not going to let you go," he told a memorial prayer service. 

"I don't miss you because you haven't gone yet."

Relatives in Colombia, who were too distraught to speak when called on Tuesday, remembered Lutz as a warrior. 

"Always fighting for all and for all! My cute doll.. One more angel in heaven, an angel given to their children, life!!" sister Ana Lutz posted on Facebook.

"Loveee uuuuu fighting for everyone tirelessly."

Police confirmed on Tuesday they were looking at the possibility the family died from "the introduction of an air-borne gas" but were waiting for the results of toxicology tests. 

Autism Awareness Australia CEO Nicole Rogerson said thousands of parents around the country shared similar experiences as the family. 

"This horrible event, at least, highlights the significant difficulty many families who parent kids at the severe end of the spectrum go through," she said. 

WHERE TO GET HELP

The Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:

Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354

Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757

Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116

Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666

Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz.

0800 WHATSUP children's helplinePhone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays, and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at whatsup.co.nz.

Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.

Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)

Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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