Borce Ristevski’s daughter Sarah was ‘blindsided’ by his sudden guilty plea to the manslaughter of her mother, Karen, after close to three years of his lies.
Daily Mail Australia understands the couple’s only daughter, Sarah, was surprised by the sudden guilty plea and hadn’t expected it.
In the latest twist in the long-running case, Borce sensationally pleaded guilty to the Melbourne shop owner’s killing on Wednesday afternoon.
Miss Ristevski was not present at the court during the pre-trial hearing. She wasn’t allowed to be, as she had been listed as a prosecution witness in her father’s trial.
Since her mum’s disappearance, Sarah has had to endure the loss of one parent, the callous betrayal of her father, and the public’s macabre fascination with the case.
Borce Ristevski (right) has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter death of his wife Karen (centre), bringing the depth of his betrayal of his wife and daughter Sarah (left) into stark relief
Ristevski was a pallbearer at the funeral of his wife – who he has now confessed to killing
Sarah Ristevski led the procession at the funeral, holding a framed picture of her shop owner and fashion designer mum
Sources with knowledge of the situation said ‘(Miss Ristevski) did not’ anticipate the plea.
Borce’s sudden confession came after a Victorian Supreme Court judge ruled that crucial prosecution evidence of Borce’s ‘murderous intent’ was inadmissible.
Crown prosecutors hinged their murder charge on evidence about Borce’s behaviour after Karen’s disappearance in mid-2016.
Karen’s body, found wedged between two logs in a national park months after she vanished, was too badly decomposed for there to be a conclusive cause of death.
Borce’s manslaughter plea means he will avoid a life sentence, the maximum penalty for a murder charge.
His trial was supposed to start today.
The plea is the beginning of the end of the circus surrounding the Ristevski family, from which Sarah has suffered the most.
In a haze after her mother’s disappearance, Sarah had to stand by her father during a public appeal for information in mid-2016.
It was then that the first questions were bluntly raised about Borce.
‘Did you kill Karen, Borce?’ a TV reporter asked the family patriarch. Borce did not answer.
Television reporter Cameron Baud (right) boldly asked Borce Ristevski if he had killed Karen, bringing a media conference to a tearful end
The media conference came to a swift, teary end. In private, Mr Ristevski blamed police for trying to ‘pin’ the crime on him, a court heard.
After nine agonising months of mystery, Sarah’s mother’s body was found at the Mount Macedon Regional Park in February 2017.
She mourned her mother at a funeral service attended by her father, listening as the crowd were regaled with tributes about the ‘close’ family unit.
Borce acted as pallbearer and buried Karen at a cemetery in Williamstown, near one of the couple’s favourite spots.
The heat on Mr Ristevski began to escalate as time went by. He was hounded by the press.
His own lawyer described him as the ‘prime suspect’ in Karen’s killing. He was convicted in the most brutal court – that of public opinion.
Borce was charged by police in December 2017.
Karen Ristevski’s body was found by horticulturalists at this site in early 2017
Borce Ristevski seen this week arriving at the Supreme Court complex in Melbourne
Through it all, Miss Ristevski kept mum, confiding only in a small circle of family and friends.
Last year, the young lady appeared in court at Borce’s committal as a witness called by the prosecution.
She made her first detailed public remarks about the case.
Miss Ristevski told the court her mother tended to raise her voice in arguments and her dad was a ‘calming influence’.
‘Dad was always the calm one,’ she said.
The couple would often argue over their fashion boutique Bella Bleu, she said. The chain was struggling.
Reports claimed Sarah did not make eye contact with her father, who was visibly emotional, during the hearing.
The Crown prosecutor Matt Fisher was adamant Karen’s death had been no accident.
‘Something happened in the house,’ he told the court.
Sarah, after appearing at court
‘The accused man engages in behaviour soon after he has either killed her or caused her serious injury.’
Sarah admitted in court that her father’s behaviour ‘didn’t make sense’ in the days after her mother vanished.
She questioned him why his phone was switched off, the committal hearing was told.
As read by Mr Fisher in court, Sarah said to Borce: ‘You were out of the house for two hours.
‘Your phone is off for two hours… They pinged you on the Calder (Freeway).’
Borce responded: ‘That’s what they are trying to plant out there, Sarah.’
‘That doesn’t make sense,’ Sarah said.
‘Nothing makes sense because they’re making it up as they go,’ he replied.
Miss Ristevski has resented the public fascination with her family’s case.
At the court hearing, Miss Ristevski said she had been ‘basically stalked’ by the media over the course of the hearing.
She looked over at the assembled news reporters and said: ‘Thanks for that’.
The terrible spectacle surrounding her family will soon be over.
Borce Ristevski will face a sentence of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for Karen’s death.
TIMELINE OF KAREN RISTEVSKI’S DEATH AND BRINGING HER KILLER BORCE TO JUSTICE
Karen Ristevski with her daughter Sarah
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
July 14, 2016
Husband Borce Ristevski and daughter Sarah make a tearful plea for information to help find their missing wife and mother
December 19, 2016
Police search grassland, waterways, creeks and farms
February 20, 2017
Karen Ristevski’s body is found at the Mount Macedon Regional Park
March 6, 2017
Funeral service held with Borce Ristevski a pallbearer and daughter Sarah leading 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 is 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 his 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
July 16, 2018
Ristevski’s two-week committal hearing begins and later hears evidence from his daughter Sarah who said he was never ‘aggressive’ towards her mum.
August 2, 2018
Ristevski is ordered to stand trial in the Supreme Court, charged with murdering his wife
December 4, 2018
A five-week trial for Ristevski is set for March 2019
March 13, 2019
A day before a jury is due to be empanelled for his murder trial, prosecutors withdraw the murder charge after a judge’s ruling.
Borce Ristevski pleads guilty to the alternative charge of manslaughter