Lutz-Manrique children's special needs school providing more support for parents one year on

Danuta Kozaki

Fernando Manrique with his daughter Elisa

PHOTO: Fernando Manrique with his daughter Elisa.
(Facebook: Fernando Manrique)


Man in front of artwork.

PHOTO: Principal David Raphael in front of artwork to be part of a
commemorative exhibition. (ABC News: Danuta Kozaki)

A year on from the murder-suicide of the Lutz-Manrique family in Sydney's north, the children's special needs school is still grappling with the tragic deaths and has formed special support groups for parents.

It was October last year that police made the gruesome discovery of the Lutz-Manrique family, in an elaborate murder suicide in the leafy Sydney suburb of Davidson.

Parents 44-year-old Fernando Manrique and 43-year-old Maria Claudia Lutz were from Colombia, and their children, Elisa, 11, and Martin, 10, were born in Australia.

Both children had autism and intellectual disabilities and attended nearby special needs school St Lucy's in Wahroonga.

Police said they were called to the Davidson home after a concerned parent and friend of Maria called police when the devoted mother failed to show up for regular school canteen duty on a Monday morning.

The family were later found dead by police in three separate rooms in the family home.

The family's pet dog was also found dead.

'Our families are under pressure'

St Lucy's school Principal David Raphael said while the circumstances of the Lutz-Manrique deaths were not fully understood, the special needs school has put additional measures in place to deal with staff and parents' wellbeing.

"We are certainly more aware of these issues in the past year, with a men's and women's support group formed," he said.

"Our families are under pressure, respite is an issue, vacation care.

"Individual challenges vary, each family needs support even with things like navigating the National Disability Insurance Scheme."

Art exhibition was Maria's vision

The school is opening an art exhibition in Maria, Elisa and Martin's honour on the anniversary of their death on Monday.

Maria had envisioned an exhibition to celebrate Elisa and Martin's artistic talent before her death, Mr Raphael said.

"Maria already had the vision for this exhibition … we have already named our art studio in their honour, along with a bursary … that was the way [Elisa and Martin] communicated with the world."

Teacher's aide Helen Chacon who taught and helped both children said they were funny and warm, and the staff at the school were still deeply affected.

"They were just happy, happy children, happy to be here and we miss seeing their happy faces, every day," she said.

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Fellow parent and friend of Maria's Sarina Marchi has a son who started school at the same time as Elisa.

"I watched [Elisa] grow from kindergarten into this lovely, complex young woman," Ms Marchi said.

"The pain is still incredibly raw. Our voices still shake, our hands do too when we think about that time."

Ms Marchi said she and others at the school still felt anger and sadness about the murder suicide and hoped for some relief during the upcoming coronial inquiry.

"All we want is the truth to be told," she said.

The exhibition is being launched by Australian artist Tim Sharp at St Lucy's on Monday night in a private commemoration ceremony.

It is expected to tour NSW, including the Museum of Contemporary Art.

A mention of the Lutz-Manrique case is scheduled for the NSW Coroners Court on October 27.