Elderly man pleads guilty to mercy murder

TIM CLARKE
Last updated 16:53 31/10/2012

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An 81-year-old man has pleaded guilty to the murder of his de facto wife, whom he has admitted killing as part of a failed "mercy" suicide pact.

Herbert Erickson was charged with the murder of Julie Betty Kuhn, 73, in January this year after her body was found at the home the couple shared in the Perth suburb of Joondanna.

Erickson is alleged to have smothered Ms Kuhn, before killing his two dogs and attempting to electrocute himself as part of the couple's suicide pact.

The pensioner suffered severe burns to his hands and lost both index fingers, but survived - and was then charged with aggravated grievous bodily harm, which was later upgraded to murder.

He had been Ms Kuhn's carer for many years after she suffered a stroke.

She also suffered from chronic arthritis, a severe form of paralysis, and was confined to a wheelchair.

In Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Erickson pleaded guilty to murder.

He will be sentenced on January 18 next year.

"I don't want to go to jail, I want to be with my partner, but I am here - worse luck," Erickson said outside court.

His lawyer David Manera said he would argue against a life jail term because of his "genuine love" for his partner.

"We will be doing our best to get the most lenient and fair outcome for Mr Erickson," Mr Manera said.

"He is trying to get on with life without his life partner. He deeply loved and genuinely loved his partner.

"He devoted himself to caring for her and he misses her deeply."

Mr Manera said a psychiatric report on Erickson's state of mind had already been prepared, and a pre-sentence report would be compiled.

Erickson's bail, which was granted earlier this year on the grounds of his age and ill health, was continued.

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