Borce Ristevski and his wife Karen were in deep financial straits when he killed her, dumped her clothed body in Victorian bushland and lied to police, prosecutors allege.
Ristevski, 54, is accused of murdering the 47-year-old at their Avondale Heights home in Melbourne’s west on the morning of June 29, 2016.
It’s alleged he then drove his wife’s black Mercedes-Benz coupe to Macedon Regional Park to dispose of her body, killing the signal on his mobile phone along the way.
Ristevski on Monday faced Melbourne Magistrates Court for the opening of a two-week hearing that will determine if there is enough evidence to stand trial for murder.
The case against Ristevski was presented in a summary by 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.
Ristevski told police his wife left the house on foot to clear her mind and never returned but detectives noticed inconsistencies in his statements.
He originally told police he had stayed at home all day doing bookkeeping, but later changed his statement, saying he went for a drive in his wife’s car.
Ristevski claimed he planned to get petrol but once on the road the faulty fuel gauge showed the Mercedes-Benz roadster was full enough, and he turned around.
Detectives later used CCTV footage, telecommunications data and expert fuel consumption reports to form their view that Ristevski had killed his wife, dumped her body and returned home.
“It is alleged the accused drove the deceased in her car to the place where her was body was located,” Mr Fisher said.
“The accused deliberately excluded and withheld information and fabricated certain facts to distance himself from the crime.”
An autopsy could not determine Ms Ristevski’s cause of death. A bone in her neck was damaged but forensic doctors couldn’t rule out this occurring after death.
The committal hearing continues before magistrate Suzanne Cameron and nearly 30 witnesses are expected to speak, including the Ristevskis’ daughter Sarah and possibly his son Anthony Rickard, who faced court himself on Sunday on unrelated outstanding warrants.