Melbourne man Borce Ristevski has pleaded guilty to manslaughter over the death of his wife Karen Ristevski, whose body was found north-west of Melbourne eight months after she disappeared.
- Ristevski was about to stand trial for murder when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter
- He had denied killing Karen Ristevski, whose remains were found in a park north-west of Melbourne
- He will appear at a pre-sentence hearing in two weeks
Ristevski, 54, admitted to the killing a day before a Supreme Court jury was expected to be empanelled for his murder trial, which was slated to run for five weeks.
During pre-trial argument on Wednesday, the court found the evidence against Ristevski could not reliably prove he intended to murder her.
While the evidence gathered after his wife’s death could prove Ristevski killed her, Justice Christopher Beale said, it could not prove he intended to do so.
The defence argued that Ms Ristevski’s death was not murder, but a spontaneous killing.
Ms Ristevski, 47, disappeared from the couple’s home in Avondale Heights, in Melbourne’s west, in June 2016.
Eight months later, her body was discovered in bushland near Mount Macedon, north-west of Melbourne.
When his wife vanished, Ristevski told police she had gone for a walk to clear her mind after an argument about money, and that she never returned.
An earlier court hearing heard evidence about the family’s troubled financial situation, revolving around Ms Ristevski’s clothing store Bella Bleu.
Ristevski, who was a pallbearer at his wife’s funeral, was charged with murder after an investigation that involved listening devices and CCTV footage analysis.
It was alleged he took Ms Ristevski’s Mercedes-Benz car to dispose of the body in bushland, killing the signal of both of their mobile phones on the way.
It was alleged he then dumped his wife’s body between two logs and concealed it with branches before returning home.
Her skeletal remains were discovered in Macedon Regional Park. An autopsy could not ascertain the cause of her death.
Ristevski, who had denied killing Ms Ristevski, will appear at a pre-sentence hearing in two weeks.
Sarah Ristevski told a court hearing her father had never been aggressive towards her mother. (AAP: Tracey Nearmy)
Case ‘strong enough to convict him for murder’
During earlier court hearings, Ristevski’s lawyers had argued the murder charge should be abandoned and sought a pre-trial committal hearing on the lesser charge of manslaughter, because no jury could find there was murderous intent.
But prosecutors pushed hard for a murder trial, saying Ristevski’s deceitful behaviour after the killing gave rise to the required intent.
They said the actions of concealing the body and lying to family and police were not those of a man who accidentally killed his wife.
The magistrate said the evidence was largely “circumstantial” but that the case was strong enough for a jury to convict him for murder.
In emotional testimony at the committal hearing, the couple’s daughter, Sarah Ristevski, said her father was never aggressive toward her mother.