Murder-suicide dad’s secret teen lover
A Sydney father who is suspected of pumping lethal amounts of carbon monoxide into his home, resulting in the deaths of his wife and two children, was having an affair with a teenager he met in a bar in the Philippines, an inquest has heard.
In the days leading up to the family's death, Fernando Manrique, 44, also made multiple trips to a Bunnings store in Belrose, in Sydney's north beaches, to buy equipment that police believe was used to set up an elaborate mechanism to channel the deadly gas from a garden shed, through the roof and into the house.
Manrique, his wife Maria Lutz, 43, and their two children, Elisa and Martin, were found dead inside their family home on Monday, October 17, 2016.
Maria had not been replying to text messages the weekend before and hadn't dropped her kids at school on the Monday morning.
Alerted by a friend of Maria's, police attended the single-storey home in the leafy northern beaches suburb of Davidson. While officers initially thought nothing was amiss, they soon made the grim discovery of Maria's body through an open window.
Her daughter Elisa, 12, was beside her in bed, her husband was slumped in a hall while 11-year-old Martin's body was found in another bedroom. The family dog, Tequila, was also dead lying on the floor close to Martin.
In his opening remarks, counsel assisting Adam Casselden said it was likely the family died sometime between 11am on the Sunday and 11am on the Monday, most likely as the mother and her two children slept in the early hours of Monday morning.
A neighbour said they distinctly remembered the barking of a dog from the house at 2.30am.
The couple were childhood sweethearts from their home in Bogota, Colombia. They emigrated to Australia and gave birth to their daughter in 2005 and son in 2006. Both were diagnosed with autism.
Despite the challenges the care of the children posed, Judge Truscott said there was no indication Maria was involved in her children's deaths.
"The impression the friends of Maria have given the court is to make it very clear Maria loved her life and had every intention of continuing a loving and productive life with her children," the judge said.
"There's no suggestion in any of the evidence the deaths were merciful at all. She didn't require mercy, she provided her two children with the utmost," the judge said.
The sentiments were echoed by Detective Sergeant Timothy Pooley, who investigated the deaths.
Asked if there was evidence to suggest Maria had a role in her children's deaths, he said: "She wasn't involved at all or had any knowledge.
"Going through phone records no indication with any person of anything like that."
Indeed, he said the relationship between Maria and Manrique had broken down.
"There was very little conversation with her husband and with conversations with friends she said she has 'had enough of him'," Det Sgt Pooley said.
Maria, who used to be a lawyer in Colombia, had given up work to care for her children while her husband had been made redundant. That had seen his income fall dramatically as he helped set up another company, which led him to frequently visit the Philippines.
Detective Sergeant Pooley said the couple had just $6 in a family trust, had credit card debts of $28,000, only a few thousand dollars in a savings account and two mortgages, which Manrique had reduced his repayment amounts on.
"I'd say that he was in dire straits and had massive tax issues," the detective said.
Despite this, shortly before the family died Manrique wired several thousand dollars to a lover in the Philippines that he met while travelling for work.
Mr Casselden said Manrique had met a 17-year-old called Jamielyn in a bar in the Philippines in 2016.
"He confined in a friend his marriage had become strained and he was seeing other women in the Philippines," he said.
Manrique would "hook up" with other women and had been seeing Jamielyn for at least four months on his trip abroad prior to the family's deaths.
"(Manrique) said he would buy her a property but never did so. She recalled that he was particularly stressed on a final trip in September 2016."
Mr Casselden said Maria found out about Jamielyn but this was still some time after the couple's relationship had broken down.
In the weeks before the family's deaths, Manrique had left the Davidson home but had returned in early September for a temporary period, he told his wife, while he found somewhere else to live.
Usually distant, Manrique seemed to be a changed man. Maria confided in a friend that "if he had been like this throughout the marriage, I would never have told him to go".
"Maria described him as 'father of the year' during that week," Mr Casselden said.
However, Det Sgt Pooley said it seemed he had already hatched a plan to gas his home having opened an account with BOC, a firm that supplies carbon monoxide gas, in late September.
Manrique also made multiple trips to a Bunnings store in Belrose in early October to buy materials to aid in his plan, he said.
Some of the items bought from Bunnings were some of the most mundane.
"The gas cylinders were locked in the garden shed with a padlock he bought in Bunnings," Det Sgt Pooley said.
The inquest continues.
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