Forensic accountant reveals Ristevski family’s ‘constant struggle’
A FORENSIC accountant says he "has no idea" why Borce Ristevski set up a second company to receive funds from his struggling clothing boutique in the months before his wife went missing.
Gerard Curtin from Victoria Police was tasked with investigating the financial situation of Mr Ristevski, his wife Karen and the couple's store, Bella Bleu, after Ms Ristevski's disappeared in June, 2016.
Mr Ristevski, 54, is accused of the murder of his wife. Police allege the pair argued at their home on June 29, 2016, before Mr Ristevski killed her and drove her body to Mount Macedon, north of Melbourne, where it was found between two logs eight months later, in February 2017.
At a committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today, Mr Curtin said Bella Bleu "had serious cash flow issues" and could not cover "rent, wages and stock".
"You'll see there was a constant struggle," he told the court.
Bella Bleu was owned by Warrant Brands, which originally paid the expenses, including staff wages, rent and stock purchases.
But in December 2015, Mr Ristevski started Envirovision and named himself the director. His daughter, Sarah Ristevski, was a stakeholder. There was no mention in court of Karen's involvement, if any.
Mr Curtin said Envirovision became effective on July 1, 2016, "for some reason" and "basically took on sales revenue from the shop".
Prosecutor Matt Fisher asked him to explain why that might have happened.
"From a forensic accounting point of view, why did Envirovision take on that role?" he asked.
"I have got absolutely no idea why that would've occurred," Mr Curtin said. "I don't know. I really don't know."
Mr and Ms Ristevski were in a dire financial situation. Their Avondale Heights home had been refinanced twice in 2013 via loans totalling $750,000. By June 30, 2016, the couple had managed to reduce the loans by only $8000, the court heard.
Bella Bleu had lost more than $320,000 over four years and the Ristevskis also had several loans and a credit card debt of more than $80,000.
'YELLING AND SCREAMING' BEFORE KAREN'S DISAPPEARANCE
A missing persons squad detective has given evidence about "yelling and screaming" from the Ristevski home before Ms Ristevski's disappeared.
Detective Sergeant Graeme Hamilton told the court the information was provided by a neighbour living near the Ristevskis' Avondale Heights home, in Melbourne's north, in the days after she went missing on June 29, 2016.
Detective Sergeant Hamilton told the court Mr Ristevski was not a suspect at the time, but he wanted "to talk to Mr Ristevski about their domestic situation".
"When I spoke to Borce that afternoon, I wanted to cover off in my own mind, whether there were any arguments that may have caused (Ms Ristevski) to leave or whether there was anyone else in the relationship," he told the court.
The detective was asked whether he put to Mr Ristevski the possibility that he had made a "mistake".
The court heard Detective Sergeant Hamilton said to the accused: "Borce, is there something you want to tell me? Good people make mistakes. Has something happened?"
Mr Ristevski has strenuously denied any involvement in his wife's death.
The committal hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence against Mr Ristevski to go to trail could conclude this afternoon. Dozens of witnesses have given evidence before magistrate Suzanne Cameron.
Forensic pathologist Professor Stephen Cordner told the court yesterday that an autopsy revealed 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.
He said it was difficult to say exactly what happened to Ms Ristevski because her body was found so long after it was left there.
Optus senior technician Oleg Prypoten gave evidence on Monday and Tuesday about mobile phone towers along the Calder Freeway detecting "pings" from the phones of Mr Ristevski and his wife in the hours after she went missing.
The Calder Freeway is the most direct route from Avondale Heights to Mount Macedon.
Sarah Ristevski, 22, made a teary appearance in the witness box last week where she talked at length about the relationship between her mother and father.
Under cross-examination by Mr Ristevski's lawyer David Hallowes SC, Ms Ristevski told the court her parents fought every few weeks but her father was "the calming influence" and "never demonstrative".
"Dad was a calming influence. Mum would get annoyed quickly. Dad was always the calm one, calming her down," she said.
The court heard Mr Ristevski went Uber driving on the day his wife went missing and had dinner with his parents. He allegedly told them his wife was "at the shop".
Lawyers for the accused yesterday hinted they would argue Mr Ristevski should face the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Mr Hallowes told the magistrate at the conclusion of yesterday's evidence that he would make a submission in that regard today or tomorrow.
Mr Hallowes made the statement when the magistrate asked lawyers what they wanted to do after all witnesses in Mr Ristevski's committal hearing had given evidence.
It's understood Mr Ristevski, who has been charged with the murder of his wife Karen, will maintain his innocence and enter a not guilty plea either way.