The reason behind the sentence: What the public didn't see about Borce Ristevski's trial.


In under five years time, convicted killer Borce Ristevski could walk free from prison.

He was sentenced last week to nine years in jail with a non-parole term of six years. With time served, he could be out in less than five.

His wife Karen Ristevski, 47, vanished from her Avondale Heights home in July 2016 after the pair had an argument about money.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky speaks to Channel Nine court reporter Eliza Rugg about why Karen Ristevski’s life was only worth nine years. Post continues below audio.

Eight months later, her skeletal remains were found in a shallow grave in the Victorian bush. Her body was so decomposed that it could not be determined how she died.

Her husband had always been the prime suspect in her murder, a fact he continuously and vehemently denied for two years, lying to police, family, friends and his own daughter, until the eve of his high profile murder trial.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter, finally admitting what so many had long suspected – he had killed his wife.

9News court reporter Eliza Rugg told Mamamia‘s daily news podcast The Quicky that Borce had offered to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter as early as last year, but his was not public knowledge.

Despite the many aggravating factors, Justice Christopher Beale ruled that Borce’s conduct following the disappearance of his wife was not enough to prove murderous intent.

Following Karen’s disappearance, Police had tapped Borce’s phone. During conversations with his daughter Sarah, Borce was critical of the police investigation and said “they don’t give a f***”.

The court heard how he knew his mobile phone was tapped and was trying to get Sarah’s boyfriend to obtain new SIM cards. He changed his phone number twice.


He also told different people different stories – lying continuously to his family, his wife’s family and police.

He dumped her body. He carried her coffin at her funeral. But when Borce was informed by A Current Affair that Karen’s body had been found in bushland, he immediately answered: “Well, it’s got nothing to do with me.”

Rugg said that murder carried a maximum life sentence in Victoria, whereas manslaughter carries a maximum of 20 years. Borce’s guilty plea was “a legal tactic”.

According to Rugg, his sentencing was helped by a number of mitigating factors. The court was presented with many strong character references, including one from Borce and Karen’s daughter, Sarah.

“With Borce, this was his first criminal conviction – it’s obviously a massive criminal conviction – but this was his first one. He also had so many character references describing him as a good husband, good father, good colleague, good friend and one of those, probably the strongest, that the judge would’ve been very influenced by was from Borce’s daughter Sarah.

“Sarah who’d lost her mother at the hands of her father still decided to put in a character reference for her father saying he was such a good man… Having a character reference from the daughter, that’s incredibly powerful.”

His nine year sentence with a non-parole term of six years has been widely criticised as too light, but it is the average sentence of someone found guilty of manslaughter.

Latest figures from the Sentencing Advisory Council showed the average manslaughter sentence was nine years and two months in 2017-18. The average length of non-parole periods was six years and two months.

The Office of Public Prosecutions is considering appealing the length of Borce’s sentence, but real change can only come from stronger sentencing laws.

As Karen’s brother Stephen Williams said outside court last week, this sentencing was supposed to be about justice.

“We didn’t get justice today, at all.”

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