Ristevski daughter breaks silence
THE daughter of accused wife killer Borce Ristevski has made an emotional appearance in court, saying her parents regularly fought and it was common for her mum to wander off when upset.
Sarah Ristevski, 22, was called to give evidence on the second day of a court hearing into the death of her mother, Karen. She became emotional and took a lengthy pause while on the witness stand.
Her father, 54, is accused of murdering Ms Ristevski, 47, at their Avondale Heights home in Melbourne's west on the morning of June 29, 2016.
Mr Ristevski has strenuously denied any involvement in the death of his wife.
Under cross-examination by Mr Ristevski's defence lawyer David Hallowes, Ms Ristevski told the Melbourne Magistrates' Court her parents fought every few weeks but her father was "the calming influence" and "never demonstrative".
"I didn't grow up in a household where there was lots of arguing," Ms Ristevski said.
"Dad was a calming influence. Mum would get annoyed quickly. Dad was always the calm one, calming her down."
Asked if the family was a tight unit, Ms Ristevski said they were "very, very close".
Ms Ristevski 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 Arnotts Shapes.
"She's 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'."
Police allege Mr Ristevski murdered his wife then drove her black Mercedes-Benz coupe to Macedon Regional Park to dispose of her body, killing the signal on his mobile phone along the way.
In court on Monday, it was alleged Mr Ristevski then went out Uber driving before having dinner at his parents.
Mr Ristevski appeared before the court with his hair cropped and beard trimmed, entering the dock wearing a charcoal suit over a white shirt, without a tie.
He will be present for two weeks of witness statements that will determine if there is enough evidence to stand trial for murder.
Sitting across the room from her father on Tuesday and wearing a white jumper and a grey scarf, Ms Ristevski said she did not find it strange that her father waited an entire day to tell her that her mother was missing.
She said Mr Ristevski was "extremely distressed" in the following days.
"He was extremely worried," she said.
"People who know him, knew he was distressed. He was very concerned about where my mum was."
On the day Ms Ristevski went missing, Mr Ristevski claims she told him, "I'm going to clear my head".
Ms Ristevski told the court on Tuesday that her mother often left the house in such circumstances.
"It was one of her sayings. She liked to be alone," she said.
Ms Ristevski told the court the media "basically stalked" the family after her mother went missing.
"Thanks for that," she said.
The case against Mr Ristevski was presented in a summary on Monday by lead prosecutor Matt Fisher, who said the couple's boutique fashion store Bella Bleu had been losing money for years.
Ms Ristevski had been missing for eight months before her remains were found among logs by two horticulturists in February 2017.
"They were drilling into the base of a pine tree when they both smelled an odour," Mr Fisher said.
"Between two logs they observed a human skull and a foot protruding up."
The body was identified as Ms Ristevski's and prosecutors allege she was murdered by her husband after the pair argued about their struggling business.
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.
"Sales coming in did not cover their expenses," Mr Fisher said. "It is alleged the financial predicament was very serious."
The alleged murder occurred between 8.58am and 10.43am on a Wednesday morning after the couple's then 21-year-old daughter Sarah had left home for work.
Mr Ristevski told police his wife left the house on foot to clear her mind and never returned but detectives noticed inconsistencies in his statements.
Mr Fisher said it's part of a story Mr Ristevski told police that included "numerous discrepancies" and made it difficult for them to "rule him out as a suspect" in the disappearance of his wife.
In one story, Mr Ristevski told police that on the morning his wife disappeared, they had fought about their finances in an upstairs room before she walked out of the house.
In another story, police claim he told them they fought downstairs and she left by a different door.
He told police that he failed to report his wife missing on June 29 because they often fought and she regularly left the house after arguments.
On the night of her disappearance, Mr Ristevski and his daughter had dinner with his parents. Police allege he told them Ms Ristevski was "at the shop" the pair owned.
Police say Mr Ristevski did not tell Sarah that her mother was missing on the day she went missing or ask whether she had heard from her mother.
The last conversation Mr Ristevski and his wife had was relayed to the court. Mr Ristevski told police his wife said "I'm going because I can't think straight" before leaving the home.
Mr Ristevski claims he drove his wife's 2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK coupe hours after she went missing because he believed it needed fuel.
But Mr Fisher told the court Mr Ristevski filled the tank the night before and was "well aware of the fuel level".
Magistrate Suzanne Cameron will hear from nearly 30 witnesses at the pre-trial hearing, but Mr Ristevski's son, Anthony a Rickard, has been excused from giving evidence.
Rickard, 34, allegedly dodged police for months because he didn't want to give evidence at his father's hearing, but he was arrested and faced court himself on Sunday.
The court was told Rickard is a witness in the death of his stepmother and police had been attempting to serve him a witness summons since May.
His statement will be tendered but he will not be cross-examined.
Pathologist Melanie Archer was the first witness to give evidence on Monday.
Ms Archer told the court she could not say exactly when Ms Ristevski's body was moved to Mount Macedon.
On Tuesday, Karen Ristevski's aunty, Patricia Gray, was cross-examined.
She told the court her "opinion of Borce changed over time" after Ms Ristevski's disappearance and agreed with the suggestion that she and the accused had a "slow fallout".
After Ms Ristevski went missing, police searched the Maribynong River and its banks near the family home for any trace of her. They followed pings from the couple's mobile phones to transmitter towers along Melbourne's Calder Freeway.
Ms Ristevski's mobile phone was reportedly tracked near Gisborne, 40km northwest of the family home, while Mr Ristevski's phone was detected near Diggers Rest, about 20km away.
Mobile phone data indicated that Mr Ristevski's phone was switched off for 2.5 hours on the day she vanished.
Mr Fisher told the court on Monday that police allege Ms Ristevski and her phone were in the car he was driving on the day she disappeared.
Police allege she was murdered at the pair's home before her body was moved.
At Ms Ristevski's funeral in Essendon in March last year, Mr Ristevski helped carry her coffin. The family a press conference four months later that was quickly shut down when a reporter asked Mr Ristevski directly: "Did you kill Karen, Borce?"
Monday was the third time Mr Ristevski has appeared before a judge since he was charged with murder. He appeared briefly via video link in April where the court heard his defence team were wading their way through 22,000 pages of evidence, including transcripts of recorded phone calls.
Police have never released the cause of Ms Ristevski's death.
HOW THE MYSTERY UNFOLDED
June 29, 2016
• Karen Ristevski last seen at her Melbourne home in Avondale Heights
• Her mobile phone pings off a tower in the Macedon Ranges
• A car similar to her black Mercedes SLK coupe spotted by CCTV cameras near Diggers Rest railway station December 19, 2016
• Police search grassland, waterways, creeks and farms
February 20, 2017
• Karen Ristevski's body found at Mount Macedon Regional Park
March 6, 2017
• Funeral service held with husband Borce Ristevski a pallbearer, while daughter Sarah leads the procession August 31, 2017
• Police recreate the journey of Ms Ristevski on the day she went missing in a black Mercedes, identical to hers December 13, 2017
• Borce Ristevski charged with murder and faces court where a lawyer indicates a not-guilty plea. He is remanded in custody
April 18, 2018
• Ristevski returns to court where it's revealed detectives tapped phone calls and planted listening devices as they investigated the alleged killing, compiling a 22,000-page evidence brief
• Ristevski is granted state-funded legal aid as he fights the allegations May 16, 2018
• Court told the pair's daughter Sarah and Borce's son Anthony are expected to give evidence at a committal hearing July 16, 2018
• Ristevski's two-week committal hearing starts, aiming to determine if there is enough evidence to go to trial.