The death of an 81-year-old “mercy” killer whose body was found on a Perth beach overnight has sparked calls for new laws allowing euthanasia.
The body of pensioner Herbert Bernard Erickson was found on Floreat Beach late yesterday, less than three weeks after he pleaded guilty to the murder of his disabled de facto wife Julie Betty Kuhn, 73, whom he cared for after she suffered a stroke.
Erickson smothered Ms Kuhn at their Armadale home in suburban Perth in January as part of their suicide pact.
Ms Kuhn had also suffered from chronic arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair.
Erickson also killed his two dogs and attempted to electrocute himself after her death, resulting in the loss of both index fingers.
He was to be sentenced on January 18 next year.
His lawyer David Manera said his family was devastated by their loss.
Mr Manera, who had planned to argue against a life jail term because of Erickson's deep love for his partner, said it was not a simple murder-suicide.
The couple's greatest fear was going into a nursing home, he said.
“The events were weighing increasingly heavily on his mind and the family were concerned about his mental state,” Mr Manera told ABC radio.
“His concern at the time that he committed the offence was for others, namely Julie and his love for her, and it would seem when he took his own life, his main concern was his love for others, namely his own family and being a burden upon them.
“So that seems to be from what I can gather ... the thoughts that were going through his head.
“He wanted to be with his wife and now he is.”
Mr Manera said Erickson didn't want to be seen as a torchbearer of the euthanasia debate, which was reignited when news of his death broke.
Premier Colin Barnett said he would not support any legislation allowing voluntary euthanasia or assisted suicide.
“Once you go down the path of euthanasia, you are going down the path of - to be blunt - legalised killing and I think that raises a whole host of other issues,” he told reporters.
Euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke labelled the premier's comments a “cop out“, saying politicians needed to take note of the particularly tragic case and introduce appropriate legislation.
“We get people who are acting out of compassion and love for someone they care about to have a peaceful death ... and they are looking at life imprisonment,” Dr Nitschke told AAP.
“He (Erickson) was again worried about people around him. These are the acts of a caring individual and not a person we should be throwing into prison.”
Dr Nitschke said such tragedies could have been avoided with well-crafted legislation, but it required politicians to “seize the moment and act, and of course incur the wrath of the church“, which most were reluctant to do.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said he would back such legislation.
"If people are terminally ill, they are in great pain and they make a choice personally to end their suffering, I would support that,” Mr McGowan said.“A lot of my colleagues would not and a lot of colleagues on the other side of parliament would not.”