Borce Ristevski arrives from a prison van to the Supreme court in Melbourne. Monday, August 6. 2018. Picture: David Crosling
Borce Ristevski arrives from a prison van to the Supreme court in Melbourne. Monday, August 6. 2018. Picture: David Crosling

How Borce ended three-year mystery with one word

FOR more than two years, Borce Ristevski played the doting dad and grieving husband.

He wrapped his arms protectively around his daughter, Sarah, as they faced the media pleading for help to find her missing mother, Karen, in the days after her "disappearance".

And at the funeral, after Karen's badly decomposed body was found in a shallow grave, tears streamed down his face as he carried the coffin of his wife of 27 years.

The father of two always adamantly denied any involvement in his wife's death.

But in one word on Wednesday, Ristevski, 54, sensationally revealed himself as Karen's killer, bringing to an end an almost three-year mystery.

"Guilty," the father of two said, when asked how he ­pleaded to one count of ­manslaughter.

It was 2.19pm, and Ristevski cut a lonely figure in the Supreme Court dock, his hands clutched in front of him, his face expressionless, profusely blinking. His shoulders almost slumped in a sign of relief as the word of confession came from his mouth.

It was over.

The lies were over.

 

 

Borce Ristevski, pictured with daughter Sarah, always adamantly denied any involvement in his wife’s death. Picture: AAP/Tracey Nearmy
Borce Ristevski, pictured with daughter Sarah, always adamantly denied any involvement in his wife’s death. Picture: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

 

Ristevski had killed his wife at their Avondale Heights home on June 29, 2016.

But it was a confession no one had been expecting.

Such a high-profile case would usually attract a crowd, but so unexpected was it that there were no family or friends of the Ristevskis in sight. Daughter Sarah and Ristevski's estranged son, Anthony Rickard, were absent.

All eyes were onCardinal George Pell being sentenced in the County Court across the road for crimes against two teenage boys, so apart from this reporter the press benches were empty.

Some high school and university students, many of whom probably didn't fully understand the magnitude of what they had just witnessed, sat quietly in the upstairs public gallery.

There were no gasps or tears as you would expect to see or hear in such a case.

No cries of "justice" from grief-stricken loved ones of the victim, or angry slurs directed towards Ristevski.

Soon after Ristevski entered his plea, Justice Christopher Beale asked custodial officers: "If you could remove Mr Ristevski, please."

Flanked by two officers, Ristevski was ushered out of Court 2, made to stand against a wall, and handcuffed.

He was then walked through the corridors of the William St Supreme Court building to the holding cells to wait for a van to return him to prison - a place which he is likely to call his home for some time.

The crime of manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' jail.

 

Rebekah Cavanagh was alone in the press box at the Supreme Court of Victoria as all eyes were on Cardinal George Pell being sentenced in the County Court across the road. Picture: David Crosling
Rebekah Cavanagh was alone in the press box at the Supreme Court of Victoria as all eyes were on Cardinal George Pell being sentenced in the County Court across the road. Picture: David Crosling

 

Justice Beale will impose sentence at a later date.

But not before a hearing on March 27 at which Ristevski's ­defence counsel will outline mitigating factors for the Supreme Court judge to consider in his sentencing.

One thing that won't have to be revealed is what actually happened inside the ­Ristevskis' home that ill-fated ­morning.

Did he strangle her? Did he push her down the stairs? Did she try to fight back against her husband?

What actually drove him to kill her?

That is something Ristevski is likely to take to his grave - and one of the main reasons the police's murder case against him failed.

Ristevski's eleventh-hour plea to the lesser charge of manslaughter came after a day of pre-trial arguments by his defence counsel.

The only evidence the prosecution relied on to prove murderous intent, defence lawyer David Hallowes, SC, argued, was post-offence conduct.

"We say it's inadmissable," Mr Hallowes said.

Borce Ristevski leaves the Supreme Court after pleading guilty. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett
Borce Ristevski leaves the Supreme Court after pleading guilty. Picture: AAP/Daniel Pockett

Pulling apart the prosecution case, he said there was no evidence found at the home or on Mrs Ristevski's body to prove any intention to kill.

"There's no hypothesis put forward by the Crown as to how the killing was carried out," Mr Hallowes submitted to Justice Beale.

Justice Beale agreed. He ruled "that whilst the ­post-offence conduct can be relied on as evidence that he killed his wife, it cannot be relied on to prove murderous intent".

It meant the prosecution had to drop the murder charge. The Crown could only suggest a heated argument over finances ended with Ristevski killing his wife behind closed doors, putting her in the boot of her car, and driving up the Calder Freeway to dump her body at Mount Macedon.

The prosecution conceded it could not say how he killed her: Mrs Ristevski's body was so badly decomposed, an autopsy was unable to determine her cause of death.

But police never doubted foul play. They also never doubted her callous husband's involvement.

rebekah.cavanagh@news.com.au



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