Local News

Family of four deaths: “Dr Death” backtracks on claims the dad contacted him

Controversial euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke initially told media the Davidson father suspected of gassing his family had contacted his group – now he says he was mistaken.

The tragic deaths of a family in Sydney’s northern beaches has now become part of the euthanasia debate with campaigner Philip Nitschke making, and then retracting, claims the father suspected of gassing his entire family had enquired about euthanasia.

Dr Nitschke, dubbed “Dr Death”, originally told The Australian that Fernando Manrique, 44, had downloaded his e-book The Peaceful Pill Handbook, which has a chapter devoted to the use of carbon monoxide in suicide.

He told the newspaper that his group, Exit International, had had “some contact” with the Manrique-Lutz family ahead of Monday’s tragic discovery.

The bodies of the dad, 44, his wife Maria Lutz, 43, their severely autistic children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, and the family dog were found in the family’s Davidson home on Monday (October 17).

Dr Philip Nitschke PHOTO: Getty

Reports then surfaced that numerous emptied gas bottles had been found around the home, and that over the week Manrique had been seen by neighbours on the roof doing repairs and renovations.

NSW Police say they are investigating the possibility that the family died from an “airborne” gas introduced to their home in Davidson through a deliberate and elaborate system.

In the past 24 hours Dr Nitschke has entered the discussion about this tragedy, initially making claims that Manrique had downloaded a handbook, called The Peaceful Pill, which contains a chapter about using carbon monoxide. He told The Australian this and then repeated the same story to Fairfax Media.

“We keep a list of who accesses the handbook online so that’s how we knew. I never spoke to them,” he initially told Fairfax Media.

Today he has retracted this saying it was not Fernando Manrique but a different man with the same surname who had downloaded the handbook.

“Fernando Manrique did not access our book,” Dr Nitschke said.

But the debate about the always-controversial euthanasia issue has begun. And Dr Nitschke has asked the public not to judge the dad and what happened to his family.

“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.

With South Australia about to vote on a landmark bill to legalise euthanasia, supporters and opponents are using the tragedy to bolster their arguments.

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