JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Mercy killer didn't want political debate

An elderly man whose body was found on a Perth beach after he admitted to the mercy killing of his disabled life partner never wanted his personal struggle to become a political debate, his lawyer says.

Herbert Erickson, 81, who preferred to be called "Bernie", pleaded guilty to the murder of his de facto partner Julie Betty Kuhn, 73, less than a month ago.

The murder had come as part of a failed murder-suicide pact conceived after Ms Kuhn - a wheelchair-bound, chronic arthritis sufferer - had a stroke, a court heard earlier this year.

Erickson admitted to smothering his partner at their Armadale home in January.

He then attempted to electrocute himself - losing some of his fingers, but surviving the ordeal.

Speaking outside court after an October appearance the elderly pensioner said he wanted to be with his partner, "but I'm here, worst luck," he told reporters.

He was due to be sentenced in January.

Instead his body was found on Floreat Perth beach Tuesday.

His vehicle was reportedly found in a nearby car park and his clothes were discovered folded neatly on the beach.

His lawyer David Manera said Erickson's death had left him with "a tremendous sense of sadness".

"He was in many respects a fine, dignified gentleman," Mr Manera said.

"Yesterday he returned his library books, I'm told he reported to the police station, walked his dogs and made his arrangements."

Mr Manera said Erickson had been concerned about the likelihood of receiving an immediate term of imprisonment over the love-motivated killing of his partner.

"But I was hopeful that he would see light at the end of the tunnel and realise that there was a chance that the court would agree that these were exceptional circumstances," Mr Manera said.

Although the discovery of Erickson's body reignited debate over the legalisation of voluntary euthanasia on Tuesday, Erickson himself had chosen not to become involved with lobby groups or political debates before his death, Mr Manera said.

"Bernie was offered assistance by a euthanasia group in Western Australia and he refused that assistance," Mr Manera said.

"He did not want to make this a political issue - it was a very personal issue and he dealt with it in his own personal way and in accordance with discussions which he'd had with his partner."

Philip Nitschke, Exit Australia director, on Tuesday said a lack of "decent legislation" was to blame for the tragic predicament.

"They help the ones they love and then they are trapped with the possibility of serious legal consequences," he said.

"We see this type of thing because we don't have decent legislation in place."

West Australian premier Colin Barnett sympathised with Erickson's situation but said he would not support moves to legalise voluntary euthanasia.

"Once you go down the path of euthanasia, you go down the path of, to be blunt, legalised killing and it raises a whole host of other issues," Mr Barnett told reporters.

But opposition spokesman Mark McGowan said if it came down to a conscience vote he would vote in favour of legalising the practice.

"If people are terminally ill, they are in great pain and they make a choice personally to end their suffering, well then, I would support the Bill," he said.

* Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by calling SANE Helpline 1800 18 7263; Lifeline 131 114; Salvo Crisis Line (02) 8736 3295; beyondblue 1300 22 46 36.

Featured advertisers

Special offers

Credit card, savings and loan rates by Mozo