Euthanasia book purchase offers clue into Australian family's deaths
Euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke says the father of the family found possibly gassed to death in their Sydney home had downloaded a copy of The Peaceful Pill handbook Exit International's website.
Speaking from Amsterdam, Dr Nitschke confirmed that 44-year old Fernando Manrique, originally from Colombia, obtained the handbook, which contains an entire chapter about how to use carbon monoxide to die.
"We keep a list of who access the handbook online so that's how we knew. I never spoke to them," he said
New South Wales Police says they are investigating the possibility that Manrique, 43-year old Maria Claudia Lutz and their two children Elisa, 11 and Martin 10, died from an "air-borne" gas introduced to their home through a deliberate and elaborate system. Elisa and Martin had autism.
The family were found dead, with no visible injuries, in their home on Sir Thomas Mitchell Drive on Monday morning, after the children failed to show up for school.
Nitschke said the case was a "tragedy" but that the family should not be judged until the facts were known.
"I don't know the details it sounds like a terrible tragedy … until you have been in someone's shoes you just don't know," he said.
Nitschke said it was interesting the method of carbon monoxide had been chosen, over the drug Nembutal, given the family's Colombian heritage.
"Bogota is one of the few places where you can obtain the euthanasia drug Nembutal and we say that in the book so it was interesting to see they used carbon monoxide," he said.
NO SIGNS BEFORE DEATHS
In the days before her unexpected death, life appeared happy for Lutz.
The 43-year-old had recently finished a teaching degree she had juggled while looking after the complex needs of her two children, Martin and Elisa, who both had autism.
That juggle had been significantly aided with a recent increase in disability assistance to help her family.
On the last day, Lutz's closest friends saw her alive, they remembered her appearing "excited" after a meeting with a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) team.
As a resident of Sydney's north, she was living in one of the first roll-out regions for the NDIS in NSW.
"Everything was lined up for her," one source concluded.
That joy, and the bright spark the Colombian-born mother brought to so many people's lives, was brought to an end by Monday morning by an "horrific" act that police suspect was at the hands of her husband.
The bodies of Lutz, Martin, 10, Elisa, 11, and their father, Fernando Manrique, 44, were found in their closed-up Davidson home.
There was no sign of visible injuries to the family of four. However an elaborate gas network within the ceiling has led police to believe they were poisoned with carbon monoxide.
Police officers found two tanks at the property, which they suspect pumped the gas through to the house at some point between Saturday night and Monday morning.
While initially keeping all options open, detectives are firming on a theory that Manrique orchestrated the murder of his wife and children before killing himself.
The family dog was also found dead when police broke into the sealed-up home.
Now Lutz's family members are believed to be preparing to travel to Australia to face the grim task of organising the family's funeral.
They will decide whether the final farewell will happen in Australia or in their native Colombia.
It is understood no suicide note was found at the house however police have taken computer equipment and other items, likely to look for signs of planning.
Davidson resident Ofik Thomassian last saw Manrique, a senior executive in business logistics, working on a gazebo in the front yard of his Sir Mitchell Thomas Drive home at about 6pm on Saturday.
"He was cutting, drilling and repairing the [gazebo] roof," she said.
Two days later she spotted police on the roof of the home taking photographs after discovering the gas pipe system in the ceiling.
Lutz spent Friday afternoon with her close friends having coffee at a nursery, where they said she was in good spirits.
"She'd had a meeting with the NDIS and she was so excited she was going to be getting all this help," Peta Rostirola told ABC's 7.30program.
"She even felt guilty for taking that, she was just the most selfless person."
Lutz's difficulties with her children's intellectual disabilities was no secret and an experience shared with families at St Lucy's school, where her children were students.
She volunteered at the school where she was fondly known by all staff and most parents.
A close friend and fellow parent called police on Monday when Lutz didn't turn up for canteen duty.
The Colombian Consul General in Sydney said they were providing support to the victims of the relatives.
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.
• 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