In Late 2014 the prestigious $25,000 Blake Art prize was awarded to Melbourne artist Richard Lewer for his short video animation about a true crime real-life love tragedy.
Richard Lewer’s work, titled “Worse Luck I’m Still Here”, tells the true story of Bernie Erickson and his long-term de facto wife Julie Kuhn. It’s a short video animation about a true crime real-life love tragedy.
In the local newspaper, the artist, Lewer read that Erickson, 81, had pleaded guilty of murder for the smothering death of wife in the half fulfilment of a murder-suicide pact.
They had pledged to each other not to go into a nursing home.
After killing their two small dogs Erickson had then tried to kill himself by electrocution after the murder, but failed. He suffered severe burns to his hands and lost both index fingers, but survived after sticking his hand in a toaster.
Julie Kuhn & Bernie Erickson were together for 50 years and they were parents to two children.
In the Stirling Gardens Magistrates Court Erickson pleaded guilty to the murder and spoke to reporters briefly after that court appearance.
“I don’t want to go to jail, I want to be with my partner, but I am here – worse luck,” he told them.
But before Erickson could be sentenced, he went to their favourite spot, Floreat Beach in Perth and walked into the ocean. His clothes were found on the sand, neatly folded. His suicide note reportedly said he did not wish to be a burden on his family.
“I think in his mind he needed to finish the pact with Julie,” Lewer said.
Erickson wife, Julie had been confined to a wheelchair after suffering a stroke, and also suffered chronic arthritis. The court heard her death had been a mercy killing to save her from being put in a nursing home.
“When I read the story (in the papers) I felt the need to retell it,” Lewer said.
Lewer said he made no judgement about Erickson’s actions, and just felt the couple’s situation was tragic — and, sadly, very common.
”It’s a love story. Bernie sacrificed everything,” Richard Lewer told media.
Erickson didn’t want to be seen as a torchbearer of the euthanasia debate.
“I think it’s important to respect the wishes of other people,” he said.
“For some people there just isn’t any way out.
“He wanted to be with his wife and now he is.”
By Jane Ann Harris from Perth, Western Australia
See the video here https://vimeo.com/80717824