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Sydney's 'poisoned' family-of-four: Mother 'struggled to cope' with severely disabled children.

Mamamia logo Mamamia 17/10/2016 Shauna Anderson
Maria Lutz with children Elisa (left) and Martin (right), all found dead along with her husband Fernando Manrique in Davidson in Sydney's north. © AAP Image/Facebook Maria Lutz with children Elisa (left) and Martin (right), all found dead along with her husband Fernando Manrique in Davidson in Sydney's north.

She was one of the faces of the school. The parent the school relied upon, the parent always willing to lend a hand.

Every morning Maria Lutz would make the journey with her two children from Davidson up to Wahroonga on the North Shore – about 20 -30 minutes away, depending on how heavy Sydney’s traffic was – driving her two beloved children to school.

On Mondays she would settle Martin, 10, and Elisa, 11, into their classes then take her place in the tuckshop where she volunteered every week without fail.

But yesterday when Ms Lutz did not show up and Martin and Elisa weren’t in class, alarm bells began to ring in the mind of Principal Warren Hopley.

The usually organised mother hadn’t sent an email, nor left a message to explain her absence or say that Martin and Elsa, who had significant intellectual disabilities including autism, wouldn't be at school that day.

When a teacher tried to call the home no one answered.

Something wasn’t right.

Concerned, the school notified police who forced their way into the family home.

What they found has left friends and their school community reeling and the rest of the nation struggling to understand.

Four bodies -Fernando Manrique, 44, his wife Maria Claudia Lutz, 43, sandy-haired Martin, just 10 and his sister, older just by a year, Elisa, a little girl whose mum called her “my little princess.”

All four, including their pet dog, dead, but without any signs of injuries.

Superintendent Dave Darcy, Northern Beaches Local Area Command said yesterday police were keeping an open mind about the deaths.

“We’re literally three hours from the time of discovery of this crime scene. ... Of course police have views, but at this stage I’d like to keep that option open,” Supt Darcy said.

He said it was too early to say what went on in the house.

“There’s no one telling us what happened. No one who has witnessed this.”

And told media, “I’m not willing to discuss cause of death.”

But there is speculation today, as reported by Fairfax Media that the family may have died by poisoning in a case of murder-suicide.

Supt Darcy refused to say how long the bodies could have been in the home but said what the two officers found was “extremely confronting”.

There are reports today that Ms Lutz was struggling with the demands of caring for her two children who had severe autism.

Neighbour Sonja Perry told The Daily Telegraph said Ms Lutz’s life with her children was not without difficulty.

“(She) used to tell me how hard it was on her and her husband,” Ms Perry revealed.

“She said it was a heavy thing on her heart and some days she found it impossible to cope. They were South American, such a lovely, friendly couple. I’m shocked to see police cars outside their house. They never caused anyone problems.”

Close friend Sarah Baldwin wrote on Facebook that Ms Lutz was an amazing woman.

Another friend paid tribute to her saying she was “selfless and dedicated” and she "fought nonstop for the rights and support of her beautiful children.”

Principal Warren Hopley described Ms Lutz as a “happy woman."

He said the community was in shock.

“We’re absolutely devastated by the news. This is an exceptional family who have been at the school here for six years,” he told media outside the school.

“Mum was a very active member of the school. Almost the cornerstone of the school in many ways. She would always attend meetings, ran the tuckshop here. She was a very busy woman and (the children) had very high, complex needs.”

But he alleged to how difficult life had been for the family saying the children's disabilities were complex and often kept Ms Lutz up at night.

He said she was always present and knew the names of every child at 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.”

Staff at the school were informed of the tragedy at 1.30pm.

Mr Hopley said they were in shock.

He told Fairfax Media that Elisa was a delightful girl.

"She had a really pleasant personality, so did their son," Mr Hopley said."They were wonderful little personalities."

On Autism awareness day last year, Ms Lutz posted a tribute to her children on Facebook writing, “people with autism have the [same] needs and desires as you and me but they just see life in a different way. They think freely.”

"Today we celebrate their life and we try to educate our society to be caring and patient with those with autism. My kids have taught me that giving small steps will take me to where I want to go and I will enjoy the journey even more.”

Superintendent Dave Darcy said the family had “made a significant contribution to how we live.”

A report will be prepared for the Coroner.

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