Daughter under killer dad’s ‘spell’
SARAH Ristevski's decision to write a glowing character reference for her father following his conviction for killing her mother Karen surprised many Australians.
Now a London-based criminal profiler, who has trained law enforcement around the world, including police in NSW and FBI agents at Quantico, claims to have a possible explanation for the young woman's actions.
Ms Ristevski waived her right to submit a victim impact statement in favour of a two-page document in which she described Borce Ristevski as "loving, caring, sympathetic, protective and charismatic".
She said Ristevski was an attentive husband and father who "would always be helping mum out", lending "a shoulder to cry on when (mum) felt like her family wasn't there for her".
"I was so lucky to have two loving parents who did everything they could to help each other," Ms Ristevski wrote.
Supreme Court Justice Christopher Beale referred to the moving document at Ristevski's sentencing hearing earlier this month, expressing regret that her father's imprisonment would contribute to the young woman's distress.
On April 18, Ristevski was jailed for nine years, with a non-parole period of six years, after he admitting killing his Melbourne retailer wife in June 2016.
The 55-year-old pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter after the court found there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a murder trial.
With time served, the father-of-two could be free in five years, a prospect that has generated fury from police and the public. A petition calling on Victoria's Director of Public Prosecutions to challenge the sentence has attracted almost 74,000 signatures.
In the face of such fury, Sarah Ristevski remains fiercely loyal to her father and UK profiler Laura Richards says she knows why.
Ms Richards, a criminal behavioural analyst who specialised in domestic violence risk assessment and homicide prevention at New Scotland Yard, believes Ms Ristevski is a victim of "coercive control" at her father's hands.
She said the only way to reconcile Ms Ristevski's continued support for the man who killed her mother was to accept that she "may be under his spell, which talks to his ability to manipulate and control those around him".
Transcripts of conversations between Ms Ristevski and her father secretly recorded by police revealed how he persuaded her he was an innocent man being persecuted by police.
"Sarah, Karen's daughter, declined to write a victim impact statement, an impact statement about her mother being brutally killed by her father," Ms Richards wrote in an impassioned April 28 letter to the DPP.
"Her voice about the impact of her mother's brutal killing is yet to be heard, despite the fact she was close to her mother. She is no doubt conflicted but this is also instructive. Instead she wrote a glowing reference for her father - a man who lied to her and everyone else.
"This makes little sense unless it is understood that she too may be under his spell, which talks to his ability to manipulate and control those around him. Coercive control impacts children as well."
Ms Richards said Borce Ristevski "played the system, only accepting responsibility to avoid a murder trial".
"He has shown no remorse and has not revealed how and why he killed his wife. He disposed of her body, her phone, handbag and wallet. These items have never been found - wiping her off the face of the earth," she wrote.
"These are all aggravating features and the Judge appears to have placed too much weight on Ristevski's defence counsel's plea to not allow the post offence conduct to weigh in regarding sentencing.
"However, it should do. He brutally killed a woman. He deprived her family and daughter of being with her. He took Karen's life so she will never know her grand children and they will never know her."
Ms Richards said it made no sense that Ristevski's crime scored a lighter punishment than that of Joesph Esmaili, who was jailed for ten years for killing heart surgeon Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann in a one-punch attack outside Melbourne's The Alfred Hospital.
"This should have been a murder charge. However, it was downgraded to manslaughter," Ms Richards wrote.
"This is problematic. Manslaughter carries a maximum of 20 years. If a one-punch offender receives 10 years, to serve 10 before he is eligible for parole, how can the brutal killing of Karen (Ristevski) carry nine years, eligible for parole in six?
"What sort of message does that send out to society about the worth of a woman's life? What about her standing in the community? What about the message to young boys and girls?
"On good authority, male neighbours of the Ristevskis are joking that you can kill your wife and serve a few years behind bars - it might be worth it in the long run. Urgent law reform is needed. This case should warrant an upper range sentence. Respectfully review this case and bear in mind the message it sends out about domestic abuse."
The Office of the Public Prosecutions Victoria has 28 days from the sentencing date in which to lodge an appeal. On Friday, a spokesperson told news.com.au the OPP was still considering its options.