Sarah Ristevski with her parents, Karen and Borce.
Sarah Ristevski with her parents, Karen and Borce.

Karen Ristevski’s stepson arrested

THE stepson of murdered Melbourne mum Karen Ristevski has appeared in court charged with bail offences.

Anthony Rickard, 34, was arrested at a Diggers Rest property about 12.20am on Sunday on outstanding warrants including failing to answer a bail charge.

He appeared in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Sunday in a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the word "rogue" and was denied bail.

The court was told police had repeatedly tried to make contact with Rickard but he refused to co-operate.

Rickard is due to give evidence at the committal hearing of his estranged father Borce Ristevski, who has been in prison since he was charged with his wife's murder in December.

This week his daughter Sarah, 22, is also listed as Crown witness in the case, leading to speculation she has turned against him.

Sarah had been the 54-year-old's most loyal supporter despite the devastating accusation that he murdered her mother - his wife of 25 years.

It is standard procedure for the crown to subpoena witnesses who have given statements to police, as Sarah and her father did in the early days when Karen was still a missing person.

In the days after the 47-year-old fashion identity vanished from her Avondale Heights home in Melbourne's northwest on June 29, 2016, Sarah and her father showed a united front in their public appeal for help in finding her.

The search ended eight months later with the discovery of Karen's decomposed remains between two logs in bushland off Loch Road at Mount Macedon on February 20 last year.

In the months before Ristevski's arrest, when it became apparent that police were treating him as a suspect, Sarah stopped co-operating with detectives in solidarity with her father.

She had already lost her mother, there was no way she was going to lose her father too.

So the idea that this stoic young woman may have changed her mind about her father is a compelling one but not necessarily accurate. The truth about her situation is far more interesting.

 

Borce and daughter Sarah at Avondale Heights Police Station making a public appeal. Picture: Sarah Matray
Borce and daughter Sarah at Avondale Heights Police Station making a public appeal. Picture: Sarah Matray

Gideon Boas, a barrister and associate professor at La Trobe University Law School, said Sarah's presence among the 29 witnesses listed by the prosecution was not an indication that she had taken sides.

Her potential role as a prosecution witness was made public after the information was included in an application to suppress the committal hearing by Stary Norton Halphen, the firm representing Mr Ristevski.

Lawyer Sam Norton had argued that it was necessary to suppress the committal hearing to ensure a "fair trial" for his client, citing "deliberately toxic" media reporting after charges were laid against him.

He ended up withdrawing the application before it could be ruled on.

Mr Ristevski has denied any involvement in his wife's death, and his lawyer has indicated that he would be pleading not guilty.

The 22,000-page case brief includes more than 100 witness statements, interview records and forensic evidence.

Mr Ristevski has been remanded in custody until this week's hearing, which is expected to last two weeks.

At a hearing in May, Magistrate Suzanne Cameron told the court that Sarah would need advice in relation to her rights in giving evidence about her father.

Mr Boas said Ms Cameron was referring to a provision that allowed the children of defendants to refuse to testify against their parents, in the same way a husband or wife cannot be compelled to give evidence against their spouse.

"Whether or not a family member is compellable is a balancing exercise for the court," Mr Boas told news.com.au at the time.

"The court balances the impact of compelling the witness to testify with the impact on the relationship and weighs that against the nature and gravity of the offence and the interests of justice being served.

"So she needs to be advised that she has the right before she is called to testify. If the judge makes the decision that her evidence is needed, compels her to give evidence and she refuses, she can be charged with contempt of court.

"Then it becomes quite a serious matter that can see a person jailed for anywhere from three months to a year.

"It really depends just how crucial Sarah's evidence is to the prosecution case and we don't know that yet."

 

Karen Ristevski’s stepson Anthony Rickard. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Karen Ristevski’s stepson Anthony Rickard. Picture: Tim Carrafa

If the case goes to trial, Sarah and her stepbrother Rickard, will be prohibited from sitting in on proceedings until after they have taken the stand.

Ms Cameron has also stated that Rickard needs advice about incriminating himself in relation to his drug use before he is cross-examined.

"At the start of the trial, the defence will ask for all witnesses out," Mr Boas said.

"All witnesses will be asked to remain outside the court until such time as they have completed giving evidence."

However, because of their blood ties to the defendant, the siblings are not banned from talking to each other or their father.

"Generally you don't have contact between the accused and prosecution witnesses and bail conditions will say don't contact witnesses or engage in activity that can be considered unreasonable interference," Mr Boas said.

"But in this case there is nothing to stop Sarah from communicating with her father or visiting him in jail and nothing to prevent her from discussing the case with him."

A committal hearing is a process in which a magistrate decides whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. A magistrate can also decide the case should be discontinued if the evidence is deemed too weak.

Unlike NSW, defendants in Victoria cannot request a judge-only trial; all criminal trials in that state must have a jury.

 

Sarah and Borce appeared as a united, emotional front during the appeal to find Karen. Picture: Sarah Matray
Sarah and Borce appeared as a united, emotional front during the appeal to find Karen. Picture: Sarah Matray

- Additional reporting AAP

Borce and Karen Ristevski, whose body was found eight months after she went missing.
Borce and Karen Ristevski, whose body was found eight months after she went missing.


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