The family of four found dead in their Sydney home yesterday are believed to have been deliberately gassed to death with a poison that was released from numerous gas bottles found throughout the house.
Fernando Manrique, 44, his wife Maria Claudia Lutz, 43, the couple’s two children Martin, 10, and Eliza, 11 - who both had autisim - and the family dog, were all found dead yesterday when police broke into their home. The family were Colombian nationals.
Police have been treating as a suspected murder-suicide. The four bodies were discovered in separate parts of the home, but, according to reports, no signs of violence. Now more information has come out which says that the mother, Maria, was found in one room with one of her children and her other child was found alone in a separate room. Fernando's body was found in another room in the house.
Police have not yet found a note.
“There was a lot of pre-planning that went into this," a police source told news.com.au.
Autopsies and toxicology tests will determine the causes of death, but there is speculation the family may have died by poisoning in a case of murder-suicide.
Neighbours have spoken of Maria's struggle to cope with the pressure of caring for two high-need children.
It is understood Maria was scheduled to work in the canteen of a local school on Monday, and the alarm was raised when she did not arrive.
"We are gradually working our way through this very tragic circumstances, to get to the bottom of it to find out the truth about what has happened here," Superintendent Dave Darcy told the media.
Supt Darcy refused to say how long the bodies could have been in the home but said that the two officers found was “extremely confronting”.
The principal of the school Martin and Elisa attended - and where Maria volunteered - said the children had very high, complex needs that kept their mother up at all hours of the night.
Despite the demands at home, acting principal Warren Hopley said Maria was at the school gates each morning, dropping off her children and volunteering her time as a much-loved member of the school's parents and friends committee.
"This is an exceptional family who have been at the school here for six years," he told Fairfax Media.
"Two beautiful children, and their mum was a very active member of the school.
"When all the children leave at the end of the day she would be out there at the exit waiting for her kids and knew the names of every child in the school.
"Just an exceptional woman."
The family's neighbour Sonja Perry told The Daily Telegraph that Maria had spoken of how they often struggled with their children’s severe conditions.
“Maria used to tell me how hard it was on her and her husband having two kids who were deaf and dumb,” she said.
“She said it was a heavy thing on her heart and some days she found it impossible to cope.”
The Sydney Morning Herald reported other neighbours saying the family had lived in the leafy street for several years and the children were often seen playing in the front yard and in a park nearby.
"I would wave at her in the street," a woman who lives around the corner said. "They kept to themselves but seemed lovely."