Davidson family deaths: Let’s stop eulogising a killer

Elisa and Martin Manrique who were killed by their father Fernando Manrique.
Elisa and Martin Manrique who were killed by their father Fernando Manrique.

Fernando Manrique's decision to kill his children was not an act of compassion. It was cold-blooded murder and we must never lose sight of that, writes SHERELE MOODY.

WHEN supposedly good people do reprehensible things, we automatically try and justify their behavior so we can come to terms with the horrific reality before us.

In reaching for these answers, in trying to find excuses, we unwittingly set out on a path that leads us towards redeeming the act that initially made our blood run cold.

This week, Australia was shocked and saddened by the news that police found a father, mother, two children and their pet dog dead in a home in Davidson.

Within hours we learned the family possibly died as a result of poisoning and it wasn't long before we found out that Fernando Manrique, just days before the deaths, turned their home into a gas chamber.

We don't know if his wife Maria Claudia Lutz had anything to do with this cold calculated wholesale slaughter of an entire family.

Maria Claudia Lutz and Fernando Manrique.
Maria Claudia Lutz and Fernando Manrique.

What we do know is this.

Manrique and Lutz had two exquisitely beautiful children. However, 10-year-old Martin and 11-year-old  Elisa were deaf and mute and had extensive special needs stemming from autism.  

Manrique and Lutz were highly educated lawyers who moved to Australia from Colombia some years ago.

Their familial support based remained overseas but they both built strong ties in their local community and were popular among their extensive cohort of friends.

He was a high-flying executive who was often away from home on work trips and seemed to be well regarded by his colleagues and employer.

She was a devoted mum who had a close group of friends around her and she even found time to volunteer at the children's school.

She was known to be fiercely protective of her son and daughter and rarely let them out of her sight.

There have been reports that Lutz was considering moving back home to Colombia and taking the kids with her because they would have more support there.

And there are also reports that the couple's marriage was hitting the rocks, particularly over the "strain" of raising Elisa and Martin.

 Maria Claudia Lutz with her children Martin and Elisa Manrique.
Maria Claudia Lutz with her children Martin and Elisa Manrique.

What do we know about Elisa and Martin?

We know these cute little kids were warmly embraced by their school teachers and their friends.

They might have been unable to communicate verbally, but both youngsters were talented artists who used paint, paper and brushes to show those around them how they viewed the world.

There is no doubt that the adults in this family had an extremely hard time raising two little ones with special needs; they did not have the benefit of close family members to help when times were tough; and there is a possibility - although it has not been confirmed by any government body - that, because of their visa status, Elisa and Martin were missing out on the kind of care Aussie citizens with disabilities get.

These three points are the reason that many people have decided that what Fernando Manrique did to his family is justifiable and understandable.

That this was a "compassionate" murder and that if we only put ourselves "in his shoes" we could see why and how such a "loving" dad felt he had no choice but to gas his children and his wife to death.

I don't know how many times over the past few days I've heard people say "they were struggling";  they were under "incredible pressure"; they did not have "enough support"; and their friends, the government, their community didn't "reach out enough".

Here's a small selection of comments popping up across social media.

"I think they just needed more support. Pretty hard to judge when we have not been through what they have been through."

"Stop judging this family and let them Rest in Peace. You actually have to live the other person's life, to know what they are going through and why they did what they did. Everything else is just a speculation and conjecture by people that have different life to this family."

Martin Manrique, like his sister Elisa, was a talented artist.
Martin Manrique, like his sister Elisa, was a talented artist.

The one thing that seems to get lost in these conversations is the fact that two children were MURDERED.

That's right. An adult, possibly two adults, KILLED a little boy and a little girl called Elisa and Martin. 

This act of murder was not a cry for help. It was not the only option available. It was a selfish decision made by a very smart adult who diligently planned every brutal moment.

Manrique contacted a right to die association about accessing a euthanasia handbook that is not available in Australia.

He went to a hardware store where he bought the fittings he needed to turn his home into a gas chamber.

He then spent days modifying his house, drilling holes and laying pipes that would distribute the carbon monoxide from the gas bottles that he purchased in the days before the murders.

When he was done, he turned this deadly hand-made contraption on and did nothing as his wife, his children and his dog asphyxiated on the deadly poison.

And he made sure he died alongside them  - perhaps hoping that we would see him as a "compassionate" father who made the "ultimate sacrifice" for his kids.

To anyone who thinks this man's circumstances were reason enough for his heinous behaviour, please re-read the last few paragraphs over and over again.

Then sit down and imagine him doing this. Imagine the kind of cold-hearted control it takes for a person to calmly go about turning the home where two little children should have grown up into a killing machine.

This man is not a hero.

He is not compassionate.

He is a killer.

I don't care what pressure you are under, what burden you carry, how tough life is - no one, and I mean NO ONE, has a right to snuff out the life of a child. 

To think otherwise, is justifying Manrique's behaviour.

Voicing these opinions is also victim blaming - that is, you are saying these kids deserved to die because of the problems their parents faced in raising them.

 You are also legitimising the killing of people with disabilities who are perceived as being a "burden".

Elisa and Martin, with their "flaws" and their multitude of wonderful attributes, deserved to grow old.

They deserved to have parents who protected them from every type of evil.

They did not deserve to die.

They did not deserve to be murdered.

And they do not deserve to have the rest of us losing sight of the fact that their father committed the most reprehensible act any parent can make. 


APN Australian Regional Media journalist SHERELE MOODY is also the founder and director of domestic violence story sharing platform The RED HEART Campaign.

•  For 24-hour domestic violence support  phone Queensland's DVConnect on 1800 811 811 or MensLine on 1800 600 636, NSW's  Domestic Violence Line on 1800 656 463 or the  national hotline 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). If you need mental health support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Topics:  crime davidson family deaths editors picks elisa and martin manrique fernando manrique maria claudia lutz murder

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