Laura Richards is a world renowned Criminal Behavioural Analyst. Here is the email she wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the regarding the killing of Karen Ristevsk and the resulting sentence handed to her husband Borce Ristevski.
Dear Madam/ Sir,
I am writing to you regarding the unduly of Borce Ristevski and asking for the sentence be appealed. What message does this sentence send out to society? All the wrong ones, particularly in light of his behaviour. Furthermore, looking for physical abuse as a sign of domestic abuse is outdated and does not reflect the reality of domestic abuse in all it’s guises. By way of introduction, I am a criminal behavioural analyst who worked at New Scotland Yard for a decade and led on domestic violence risk assessment and homicide prevention. I since founded Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service having successfully campaigned to change the law on stalking and coercive control.
Ristevski killed his wife of 27 years. At no point did he seek medical help or try and help her, which he would have done if it were not an intentional act. Instead he chose to dispose of Karen’s body in bushland, as if he were putting out the rubbish. This is instructive about how her felt about the relationship. He created distance between him and her.
He then lied to their daughter, Sarah, and Karen’s family causing them untold distress. He lied to the police. He continued to lie for almost three years. He carried Karen’s coffin at her funeral causing further distress to her family ,who strongly suspected he had killed Karen. I have sadly analysed hundreds of domestic murders. Coercive control is almost always present. Coercive control correlates significantly with murder. When women try and separate from the abuser, this is the highest risk time. When professionals say there is no history of domestic abuse, they may be looking for physical abuse and miss the psychological, financial and coercively controlling elements which that are far more damaging to the victim.
Behavioural and statistically speaking, it’s highly likely their argument was about separation and Karen trying to leave.
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. 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. He disposed of her, after 27 years of marriage, like rubbish. That says a lot. He denied her a proper funeral for eight months leaving her body exposed to the elements including animal predation.
Sarah, Karen’s daughter, declined to write a victim impact statement, an impact statement about her mother being brutally killed by her father. 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. This should have been a murder charge. However, it was downgraded to manslaughter. This is problematic.
Manslaughter carries a maximum of 20 years. If a one punch offender, Mr Esmail receives 10 years, to serve 10 before he is eligible for parole, how can the brutal killing of Karen carry 9 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 Ristevski’s 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. Your law and training really does need to catch up and reflect the reality of domestic abuse in all it’s guises. I’d be happy to help.
World renowned Criminal Behavioural Analyst calls for urgent law reform following the Ristevski sentence