A man who tried to euthanise his wife and kill himself at the same time in a failed murder-suicide attempt acted out of pure love for his wife, a court has heard.
Heinz Karl Klinkermann, 73, faced the Victorian Supreme Court in Ballarat yesterday, where he pleaded guilty to attempted murder. The court heard on August 1, 2012, Klinkermann tried to kill his terminally ill wife of nine years, Beryl, at the couple’s home in Yandoit.
He had tried to use medications and carbon monoxide poisoning, but the attempt failed.
Mrs Klinkermann, now 85, remains in palliative care, where she is “unresponsive” due to advanced dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Justice Betty King heard Klinkermann, a German immigrant, lay in bed and held his wife’s hand during the attempted murder-suicide, just hours after two district nurses had attended.
The couple were found at 8am the next morning and taken to the Ballarat Base Hospital.
Both survived the incident.
Crown prosecutor Mark Rochford, SC, said a three-page note written in both German and English, was found at the house.
Included in the note was a line that read “what’s the point of going on?”, referring to Klinkermann’s battles in caring for his terminally ill wife.
Defence barrister Tim Walsh said Klinkermann was his wife’s sole carer and refused to admit her to a nursing home, believing he was the best person to care for her.
Klinkermann had feared his wife would starve to death, given her inability to move or swallow.
“He was at no stage motivated by anything but overwhelming love for his wife,” Mr Marsh said.
“It was designed to ensure there was no suffering. There was an inability to contemplate life without her.”
The maximum penalty for attempted murder is 25 years in prison, but Judge King said the case was unlike nearly every other attempted murder case in the past.
Justice King said the fact Klinkermann made full admission to police and had never previously been in trouble with the law in his life, showed he was of “good character”.
Several character references were also tendered to the court, including a statement from Klinkermann’s step-daughter from a previous marriage, Leonie Sudiro.
“Heinz had made a promise to her that he would never put her in a nursing home. He took this promise very seriously and would never renege on it,” Ms Sudiro said in a statement.
A report psychiatrist from Jeffrey Cummins after the incident in November last year was also read out, which referred to Klinkermann’s diary entry on the day of the offending.
It read: “It’s time, I’m ready. It may sound tragic but that’s how it is. I’ll see how the day turns out I can’t watch my Beryl slipping away anymore. I want to go with her. Goodbye, farewell.”
In sentencing, Justice King said the incident was a “tragedy for everyone involved”.
“It is clear that you adored your wife,” Justice King said.
“One of the things our society does allow and permit is mercy.
“Everything you did, you did because you genuinely believed it was the right and appropriate thing to do.”
Justice King convicted Klinkermann of attempted murder and imposed an 18-month community corrections order, under the conditions he received medical and mental health treatment as well as rehabilitation.