On November 28, 2010, Snezana Stojanovska was found dead in the garage of her Preston home.
She was 12 weeks pregnant at the time.
The 26-year-old’s lifeless body was discovered lying on an ironing board, which was propped up on phone books. The mum-to-be was found in her pyjamas and a dressing gown, and on her hands was a pair of gardening gloves. She was not wearing a bra.
Emergency services were called to the property just after 11am.
According to The Age, the young woman’s husband, Dragi Stojanovski, told investigators he had found his wife with a barbell across her neck. He said the ironing board was a makeshift bench press and that her death was the result of an unfortunate weightlifting accident.
The barbell was resting against a nearby chair with a five kilogram weight on each end, totalling 30 kilograms.
As the Herald Sun reports, Stojanovski repeatedly told the paramedics to “help” and “do something” as they attended to his wife.
But now, Victorian State Coroner Sara Hinchey on Thursday has ruled the woman was a victim of homicide and her death was staged to look like an accident. The bruising on her neck simply didn’t fit with a weightlifting mishap.
Over the duration of the inquest, Judge Hinchey heard from family members, a doctor and detectives. She has directed the matter be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Judge Hinchey agreed with a doctor’s analysis that the young mum-to-be had not dropped the weights on her neck, but had been strangled.
At the beginning of the inquest, forensic pathologist Dr Malcolm Dodd told the court he did not believe Snezana had died from a weightlifting accident. Dr Dodd said the cause of death was asphyxia and neck compression, most likely caused by strangulation.
“My view was the pattern of bruises… did not fit at all with the story provided that this may have been entrapment by a barbell.”
Although Dr Dodd didn’t completely rule out the possibility that Snezana had died from the barbell falling on her neck, he said it was “extremely unlikely”.
A sports science expert quoted in the coroner’s findings said the equipment set-up in the Stojanovski’s garage was the strangest he’d seen.
Dr Harry Brennan said the ironing board was balanced “precariously” on top of the phone books and a chair at the head of the ironing board would have made it hard to lift the weights.
He also said most women doing a work-out would wear a sports bra, t-shirt, leggings and runners – not pyjamas, no bra and bare feet.
Paramedics arrived six minutes after they were called and found Ms Stojanovska’s body cold and in the early stages of rigor mortis.
“These signs are evidence of the fact that Ms Stojanovska would not have been alive at the time that the call was made from Mr Stojanovski’s mobile phone to (the family doctor),” she said.
A lawyer acting for Stojanovski submitted that the police investigation into his wife’s death did not start well because it only began once the doctor’s autopsy findings did not fit with the weightlifting story.
It was five months before Stojanovski, Vasko and their mother Pisana were arrested and interviewed by police.
On Thursday, Judge Hinchey said she could make no finding of criminality on the part of Stojanovksi, Vasko or Pisana.
However she noted they were the only people at the house at the time and that there were no signs of forced entry to the premises.
Stojanovski was excused from giving evidence during the inquest after saying his answers could tend to incriminate him.
During the inquest, Snezana’s relatives wept as the court was shown images of her body and the bruising around her neck, under her chin and on her upper chest.