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"Can we have a break?" The uncomfortable viewing of Sarah Ristevski’s 60 Minutes interview.

When Sarah Ristevski returned home on what was meant to be an ordinary day in June 2016, she thought it was odd that her mother Karen Ristevski wasn’t there.

Her dad Borce Ristevski told her they’d had an argument, and she’d gone for a walk to clear her mind. This wasn’t particularly unusual, so Borce and his 21-year-old daughter went out for dinner.

When they returned home, it was a cold and wet winter’s night in Melbourne. Sarah went to bed, not knowing where her 47-year-old mother could be.

Sarah Ristevski on whether she ever asked her dad if he killed her mum. Post continues below video.

Video via Nine

The following day Sarah and her father reported Karen missing to the police. At first authorities didn’t take it seriously, Sarah said.

What followed was weeks and months of the unknown. At press conferences, Borce and Sarah pleaded first for Karen to come home, and then for anyone who knew what had happened to her to come forward.

At one press conference, a reporter asked Borce, 55, if he killed his wife of 27 years. Sarah reflected on 60 Minutes that her father was upset to have been asked the question in front of his young daughter.

borce ristevski
For years, Borce Ristevski denied having anything to do with his wife's death. Even when directly asked. Image: 60 Minutes.
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Then on February 20, 2017, nearly eight months after her disappearance, Karen's body was found in bushland northwest of Melbourne, buried under logs and largely decomposed, making it impossible for forensic examiners to determine a cause of death.

Her husband Borce was a pallbearer at her funeral.

Borce Ristevski
Borce Ristevski at Karen's funeral. Image: Getty.

In December, 10 months after Karen's body was found, Borce was charged with his wife's murder. He pleaded not guilty to that charge but nearly three years after his wife died, on March 13 2019, Borce pleaded guilty to the manslaughter - not murder - of Karen and was jailed for nine years, with six years non-parole.

Speaking to 60 Minutes, Sarah, now a 24-year-old graphic designer, recounted being part of a case that so closely captured the attention of Australia.

"I think my heart's saying how is this possible? I can't comprehend that she's gone and I don't want to think about how that happened," Sarah recalled of how she felt after the charge.

Many had long suspected Borce's involvement, but what shocked the public was Sarah's decision not to provide the court with a victim impact statement about the loss of her mother.

Instead, she wrote a glowing character reference describing her father as "loving, caring, sympathetic, protective and charismatic".

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"I think I just didn't want to give a victim impact statement because I was giving it to the officers who were so horrible to me in the first place," Sarah said about her decision.

"And also, I wanted to try and represent the dad I knew, the dad I know."

sarah-ristevski
Image: 60 Minutes.

Through tears, Sarah recalled asking her father if he had anything to do with her mother's death. He said no.

"I think he's my dad, so nothing has changed."

Asked by interviewer Liz Hayes if she still believed him, Sarah nodded.

"You believe he's innocent?" Hayes asked.

"I don't know what to believe... I hate thinking about what's happened and I'd rather think of the better times.

"I just think it's tiring... I just feel like I can't move forward if I'm always stuck in the past."

Pressed by Hayes - who suggested that if Sarah's father didn't kill her mother, someone else had, and how did she feel about a person who could do that? - Sarah shut down. Repeatedly, she asked for a break from the interview.

Criminal behavioural analyst and British psychologist specialising in domestic violence Laura Richards told 60 Minutes she believed Karen and now Sarah were victims of control by Borce.

Sarah, Karen and Borce Ristevski
Sarah, Karen and Borce Ristevski. Image: 60 Minutes.
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"The fact that he manages to look his daughter in the eye and tell her that he doesn’t know what happened to her mum for not just for days, or weeks, or months, he continues that for years. Even carrying her coffin," she said.

"That takes a very particular type of person. Someone with the ability to keep their head. Well, someone who has to be a good strategist, and more devious than most, more manipulative.

"I feel more angry than she does. But it just shows how she’s compartmentalised this – and how well she has her own self-preservation."

In December 2019, Borce's sentence was increased by four more years, with a 10 year non-parole period after public pressure. Still now, he has refused to tell anyone how Karen died and he has not expressed any remorse publicly.

"It's definitely higher than I thought," Sarah said of his new sentence after attending court.

"I think people forget that yes, my dad's serving the time but I feel like I am as well. I think I'm glad it's all over, but it's just another chapter starting I guess... I think the realisation that I'm kind of alone."

There are people who believe Sarah too was somehow involved in Karen's death. Asked directly by Hayes, Sarah said she was not.

"I think it's horrible to say that about someone, especially when I've done nothing at all... It's really quite, it hurts my soul basically.

"Especially because I was so close with my mum. Anyone that knew us, or knows me, knows how tight our bond was."

sarah-ristevski
Image: 60 Minutes.
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Sarah said she had not asked her father for information about what happened to her mother.

"I think if people are asking me, they're asking the wrong person. I think people should ask my dad maybe in 11 years time."

This was one of the only times in the interview Sarah implied that her father was guilty. Asked if she'd ever seen her father express guilt or remorse, she was vague.

"I've seen the sadness at the loss of my mum, we both have the same amount of sadness. We loved her very much, we still love my mum... I see the pain, so for people to say that my dad doesn't love my mum or care, it's just like people don't see the pain that I see that he feels when I go see him."

"He's very sorry about what happened?" Hayes asked.

"He misses her everyday," Sarah said.

"Does he say he's sorry?" Hayes continued.

"I don't like to talk about what happened," Sarah replied.

"At the end of the day he's my father and I have one parent left. And even though he's pleaded guilty, I guess, sometimes I just find it hard to comprehend that he is guilty. But I think if I was in his position, he would be by my side.

"I love my dad now, I loved him before and I'll love him in 11 years when he's home."

You can watch Sarah's full interview with 60 Minutes on 9Now. 

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