Borce Ristevski To Stand Trial Over Wife's Murder
Borce Ristevski pleaded not guilty.
Borce Ristevski has been committed to stand trial over the murder of his wife in 2016.
The 54-year-old did not show any emotion on Thursday morning when magistrate Suzanne Cameron announced that, in her view, there is enough evidence to support a conviction of murder.
Ristevski quietly said “not guilty,” when asked to enter a plea. He will now face a Supreme Court trial.
During the committal hearing, both sides of the bar table all but acknowledged a Supreme Court trial was inevitable. What was an issue was what charge he would be be tried on. Prosecutors said it has to be murder. The defence argued the evidence fell short, and it would only be reasonable for their client to be committed on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Either way Ristevski was always determined to fight the case against him. As his barrister David Hallowes put it, “in no way is that a concession from me or Mr Ristevski that he was in any way involved in the killing.”
Karen's body was found "almost by chance" according to the prosecution, hidden between two fallen tree trunks at Mount Macedon, eight months after she went missing.
Part of the police case is that when a current affairs program called Ristevski to break the news an unidentified female body had been discovered there, the accused man’s immediate reply was, “that’s got nothing to do with me.”
The court heard Ristevski is a law-abiding man. He has no prior convictions. He has always denied any involvement in his wife’s disappearance, he told police he and his wife had a good relationship, and his lawyers made the point there were no intervention orders, and no life insurance policies.
A Victoria Police forensic accountant who went over the family finances gave evidence Karen’s fashion boutique Bella Bleu was under significant financial strain. But the defence argues Karen was the driving force behind the business, and her husband had nothing to gain from her death. They said the case for murder simply didn’t stack up, and that a reasonable jury properly instructed about the law would come to the same conclusion.
To prove murder, police must prove the accused had the intent to kill or cause serious injury when they caused a death. The defence argued that hurdle will not be passed in this case. They also said there was no motive.
It’s what the accused man did after his wife disappeared that forms the bulk of the circumstantial crown case.
"The argument is the post offence conduct is so sustained, there is so much of it and it’s so significant the only conclusion available is that the accused man had murderous intent," said prosecutor Matthew Fisher.
The prosecution allege Ristevski changed his story. Initially he told police on the last day he saw Karen alive, June 29 2016, he was at home doing book-work for the business, and had a shower between 11:30am and midday.
Days later he said he drove his wife’s car on the day she went missing. He was at a police station on July 2, for an appointment to make a statement. The admission prompted a missing persons squad detective to ask “Boris is there something you want to tell me? Even good people make mistakes. Has something happened?”
"What do you want me to say? Nothing happened," Ristevski replied.
The Crown case is that Ristevski killed or seriously injured his wife inside their home, placed her in the boot of her car in the garage, then disposed of the body. Police claim he turned his mobile phone off to avoid detection, and only turned it back on that afternoon when he was close to home.
A listening device planted by police recorded the Ristevski’s daughter, Sarah, asking her father about his movements that day.
"Nothing makes sense because they’re making it up as they go along," he replied.
The magistrate was told one part of the investigation remains ongoing. Police said there is photograph of a black Mercedes in the Mount Macedon area taken on a mobile phone, provided by a witness. They are attempting to retrieve the data from the photograph, as it’s not known what date or time it was taken. The data might never be recovered. It’s one of the questions in this case that may never be answered.
It will ultimately be up a jury to decide the facts. Borce Ristevski was remanded in custody to face a Supreme Court directions hearing on August 6.