Lethal passions and a night of intrigue

Death and drugs: Sarah Manning. Photo: Jacky GhosseinThe wealthy, French-born businessman lies face down in the bedroom of his Darling Harbour penthouse, his life snuffed out by a combined overdose of notorious party drugs GHB and Ice.

David Monlun, co-owner of a freight company and a wine business that had provided the ”trappings of success”, had paid the price for indulging in one too many drug-fuelled parties.

But on Wednesday, the Glebe Coroner’s Court heard that the 40-year-old’s death occurred amid a set of bizarre, mysterious and at times sinister circumstances.

Among those present at a small booze-drenched gathering at Monlun’s house the night before his death in May 2011, was Sarah Manning, the Frenchman’s on-off girlfriend with whom he shared a ”volatile”, ”highly sexual” and ”obsessive” relationship that involved regular use of illicit drugs.

After meeting in 2001, they had a daughter in 2003 and may even have married in Hawaii a year later, though there is evidence the ceremony was not legally recognised.

In the mid-2000s, Manning’s former partner Matthew Haar came to live with the couple, but Monlun, it appears, was under the impression Haar was her brother.

In late 2006, Haar violently kidnapped the Frenchman on two separate occasions, cutting him with a knife, forcing him to take cocaine, and ordering him to sign over property, including a Harley-Davidson. The inquest heard that Haar was assisted during the second kidnapping by two female accomplices, one of whom was Manning.

The young woman was placed on a good behaviour bond and lost custody of the couple’s child. Incredibly, Monlun and Manning appeared to have resumed their relationship about three years later. ”There is evidence that the relationship intensified in the weeks leading up to Monlun’s death,” counsel assisting the inquest, Simon Buchen, said.

”The consumption of ice and GHB, and drug-fuelled sexual encounters appear to have been a significant feature …”

On May 29, Sarah Manning, her mother Jennifer Manning, and two other men arranged to visit Monlun at his harbourside apartment. CCTV cameras inside the unit shows Monlun, Sarah Manning and a long-term GHB user, Jamie Philp, drawing clear liquid from a bottle. After Sarah Manning’s departure in the early hours of the morning, Monlun’s condition is seen to deteriorate, before he moves into his bedroom, where he was found dead by the couple’s daughter four hours later. A post-mortem found that drug overdose was the most likely cause of death, with the level of GHB in his system well within the lethal range.

Police discovered a small safe in the apartment containing a large quantity of a high-quality precursor to GHB, along with smaller amounts of other drugs.

”That quantity and quality is consistent with someone higher up in the food chain [than a street user],” the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Ryan Coffee said.

The inquest also heard that just hours before his death, Monlun had booked two return tickets to New Zealand for himself and his daughter, a fact ”inconsistent with suicide”.

Buchen said that over the next week, the inquest would investigate how Monlun came to ingest the drugs that caused his death, and the conduct of Sarah Manning and Philp in the hours before it occurred.

It would examine evidence concerning the size of Monlun’s estate, and the fact he had an insurance policy of $4 million, with his daughters the main beneficiaries.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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