It was a rainy Monday morning in Sydney when two police officers arrived at a home in Davidson on the Northern Beaches for what they believed to be a routine house call.
A concerned friend and co-worker, Nichole Brimble, had contacted police after Maria Claudia Lutz failed to drop her two children off at their school, St Lucy’s in Wahroonga, and for her shift at the school canteen.
The officers arrived at around 10:30am, they knock at the door and there is no answer, and call out but there is no movement inside the house. The officers note that both Maria, and husband, Fernando Manrique’s cars are both parked in the street and no sign of the family’s pet dog.
Ms Brimble, still concerned, urged officers to investigate further, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.
The officers head around the back through a gate and immediately through French doors at the side of the house they see a man slumped over and appearing to be unconscious. They break into the house where they are immediately confronted with the horror of not only Manrique’s body, but that of Maria, and the couple’s children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, as well as the dog, Tequila.
The officers noted that ceiling fans were on in all the rooms, which they would later discover was circulating poisonous carbon monoxoide gas throughout the home.
Within moments back up arrived and the house and street was cordoned off and turned into a crime scene.
"It's a horrific thing that has happened to this suburb," police superintendent Dave Darcy said at a press conference held int he street that same day. "The mother in particular is held in very high regard in the community. Since coming to Australia they have made a significant contribution to how we live."
Police later discovered a network of pipes and gas bottles throughout the home, believed to have been installed by Manrique..
Neighbours reported seeing the technology executive working on the roof with power tools over the weekend before the family’s deaths.
"He was right up on the roof replacing tiles and using power tools of sorts,” Neighbour Ofik Thomassian told News.com.au.
"He was cutting and banging and making all sorts of noise and pulling up tiles but I don’t really know what he was doing."
A number of other neighbours also confirmed seeing the father working on the roof over the weekend.
As the investigation continued speculation mounted as to whether Manrique acted alone or with the help of his wife, with reports saying the family, originally from Columbia with no other family in Australiaa, were struggling to cope with raising their two severely autistic children.
Police however have stated they believe Manrique worked alone and those closest to the family say that Maria was an ‘amazing mother’ who worked tirelessly to give her children the best possible future.
"Maria was so loved here and it was like a family for her," friend Peta Rostirola one of a number of women who knew Ms Lutz through St Lucy’s tells SMH. "She got so much back from all the kids. The more she gave, the more she got back."
"She was always caring about everyone else, it didn't matter what was happening in her life, she was always most worried about everyone else," Karen Hickmott, another friend told ABC's 7.30 back in October.
Investigations into the deaths are still ongoing, with an inquest likely to take place in 2017.
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