Borce Ristevski with his daughter Sarah. She stood by him the whole way. Picture: Sarah Matray
Borce Ristevski with his daughter Sarah. She stood by him the whole way. Picture: Sarah Matray

Ristevski’s unthinkable lie to daughter

IT NEVER really made sense to Sarah Ristevski.

There was a niggling feeling she couldn't quite place about the way her father acted on the day her mother went missing.

Police were asking questions about Borce Ristevski's whereabouts, about things he said and did on July 29, 2016, after his wife Karen vanished from the couple's Avondale Heights home.

So she just asked him.

In a telephone conversation between the pair, recorded on a listening device at the Ristevski home, the then 22-year-old is clearly confused.

She wants to know specifics. Why are police asking about his phone? And are they on to something?

A heartbroken Sarah Ristevski stands by her father as they plead for assistance in locating her mother. Three years later, Borce Ristevski pleaded guilty to killing the 47-year-old. Picture: Sarah Matray
A heartbroken Sarah Ristevski stands by her father as they plead for assistance in locating her mother. Three years later, Borce Ristevski pleaded guilty to killing the 47-year-old. Picture: Sarah Matray


Sarah asks bluntly why he turned his phone off for two hours as he drove past Diggers Rest in the direction of Mount Macedon where Karen's body would be found eight months later.

"You know what I want to know?" she said. "You're out of the house for two hours, your telephone is off for two hours. You were driving and you turned your telephone off. They pinged you on the Calder (Freeway). So you were driving?"

Mr Ristevski deflected the question. He played the victim. He told his only daughter he was being stitched up by cops who had no other credible leads.

"That's what (police) are trying to plant out there, Sarah," he said.

"That doesn't make sense," she shot back.

"Nothing makes sense," Mr Ristevski said.

The charade he started with that first lie established a pattern of behaviour he did not break for almost three years.

He played the innocent party at a press conference shortly after Karen went missing where a Seven News reporter asked: "Did you kill Karen, Borce?"

Sarah had doubts but never stopped supporting Borce. Picture: Eugene Hyland
Sarah had doubts but never stopped supporting Borce. Picture: Eugene Hyland

He wiped away tears at the funeral for the 47-year-old and was comforted by friends and family members. A photograph of the Mr Ristevski carrying Karen's body is a vivid, visual reminder of the game he was playing.

Sarah stood by his side all along. She ridiculed media in her only appearance in the witness box at her father's committal hearing last year.

"Thanks for that," she told the reporters in the room when discussing how they had hounded the family after Karen's disappearance.

She told the same court her father, who turned 55 today, was "the calming influence" in the family home and "never demonstrative".

"Mum would get annoyed quickly," she said. "Dad was always the calm one, calming her down."

Asked if the family was a tight unit, Sarah said they were "very, very close".

Sarah, Karen and Borce Ristevski.
Sarah, Karen and Borce Ristevski.

She became visibly upset when recalling an example of a typical fight between her parents.

"An example is when Mum would be cooking dinner and she'd realise there was no milk."

She said Mr Ristevski would go to the shops for milk, but return with a box of Arnott's Shapes.

"She'd say to him, 'What have you done? You've gone and got all this stuff' … I'll eat it and my thighs will get fat'."

Mr Ristevski, who up until that point had shown little emotion in court, wiped away tears. He was moved that she was defending him. But he knew it was advancing a lie he told her early on.

On Wednesday, on the eve of Mr Ristevski's murder trial, he finally stopped lying. Asked again whether he killed his wife, he pleaded guilty.

It came after the prosecution case for murder fell apart when Judge Christopher Beale ruled post-offence conduct - including moving Ms Ristevski's body and lying to police - was inadmissable.

Borce Ristevski pictured at his home in Avondale Heights on July 31, 2016, two days after his wife went missing.
Borce Ristevski pictured at his home in Avondale Heights on July 31, 2016, two days after his wife went missing.

Prosecutors offered a new charge of manslaughter and Mr Ristevski accepted. He was handcuffed and led away to the Melbourne Assessment Prison where he will remain until a pre-sentence hearing later this month.

The guilty plea answers one question, but it leaves many more unanswered - and possibly unanswered forever.

He has not yet confessed to how he killed his wife or why. And he may not have to.

What we do know is that he acted strangely on the day she went missing. He went driving for ride share company Uber in the afternoon and had dinner with Sarah and his parents that night.

When asked where Karen was, he told the family she was at Bella Bleu, the boutique clothing store the pair owned.

He - or somebody else in the house - used the family iPad to search topics including Apple maps timelines and Google tracking history.

Borce and Karen Ristevski fought but Borce was the ‘calming influence’, daughter Sarah said.
Borce and Karen Ristevski fought but Borce was the ‘calming influence’, daughter Sarah said.

Because Karen's body was not found for eight months, any clues about what happened to her were long gone.

A forensic pathologist told the Melbourne Magistrates' Court last year that Ms Ristevski's injuries were hard to define, but there was one thing.

Professor Stephen Cordner told the court Ms Ristevski had an irregular break in her hyoid bone - a bone in the neck - that could have been the result of a number of things, including blunt force trauma.

Sarah Ristevski was not in court on Wednesday when her father entered his guilty plea. Nor were any members of the victims' family. The courtroom was largely empty because nobody was expecting what unfolded.

Today, on Mr Ristevski's birthday, she will no doubt experience mixed feelings all over again.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith


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